I’m having a really bad day as I write this. Again. I’ve been having quite a series of them lately; work has been quite the stuff stress-busters are made for. But really, how can I complain? Why should I complain? I am young, I should have the energy and the forbearance for this, right?
Right. But right now, it is hard to do that. I will just go through today and remember that everything will be better in the morning. Things always have a way of working themselves out, especially after a good night’s sleep. I hope I will at least have that tonight.
But until then I wonder how you cope when you are frustrated. I’d love to go to a website where I can just read about what real people do to turn sad/mad into glad almost instantly. When life hits or pinches, ice cream will not always do it. I figured that out when I hit 15. But some things do work, foremost of which would be, for me at least, the image of the sparkling Hong Kong skyline as the plane I’m riding hovers above it at night, the Peninsula lobby, and some childhood memories that I always carry around with me. I think about them and I catch myself smiling. Maybe writing about them now that I am all wound up will make the day go down easier.
• My wooden toys. My sister and I had lots of wooden stuff. Maybe because we lived a very homemade life, there was nothing made of wood that we could not have our own version of. Across our house in Bonifacio St. we had what we always referred to simply as “the shop.” It was where the mechanics attended to the maintenance and upkeep of the tractors used in the farm but it was also where ManoySusing made our wooden things — from my Barbie dolls’ furniture to our study table to all sorts of other pretty little things. Then they were painted with whatever color we wished. Those wooden toys are still there, my mom kept most of them, and of late they have been taken out of storage so that little Valiant (my sister’s adorable little boy) could play with them. Chipped and scratched here and there, they still delight now even more so than they did then.
• My evil yaya. Except for Yaya Balda (who left because I asked her to bring me home a monkey and she fell in love with the man who helped her find the monkey for me in their province, what was I thinking?), the other yayas I had were not exactly dreamy. My mom says I had one who, when she fought with her boyfriend, would take out her anger on me and stuff my mouth with a tomato and/or make me drink hot milk. I do not remember any of these, and I do not know why to this day I love both milk and tomatoes. Maybe she was not so evil, or maybe I really had a guardian angel who softened the blow for me. I am more inclined to believe the latter. These are just stories I grew up hearing. I had another one who was always mad, always high strung. I loved locking her out of the room when she was too noisy. Turns out she was that way because she was pregnant already. But still.
Anyway, why do these stories make for a happy childhood memory? Because I still see these yayas from time to time. And I do not hate them. I also do not remember tomatoes and hot milk and being traumatized by either. I guess I am just thankful it is something I have no clear memory of. It is just one of those little not-so-sad stories and that’s about it.
• Sunday dresses and hankies. I do not know when things turned very casual but growing up my sister and I always wore Sunday dresses and brought hankies. After Mass we would buy the butter cake daddy loved so much and some magazines. Then we would either go home to have lunch or eat out, the butter cake would always cap our Sunday meals.
Even to school we always brought hankies, we were never without them. Now it is tissue paper. It is more convenient, yes, and definitely more hygienic, but I miss bringing a hanky. To this day I cannot resist a pretty handkerchief. When I see one, I have to buy it, and I either just keep it or use it to wrap precious little things or package little things I want to give away as gifts.
• The Sound of Music, Voltes V, The King and I. I love watching these shows but most especially The Sound of Music. I go all soft and mushy when I think of The Sound of Music. More so when I actually see it. Happy or sad I can watch that film and life always feels more gentle after. I used to watch it almost weekly for years as a child and to this day I still remember most of the songs and the sequences. My favorite song would be the one Maria sang to Captain von Trapp when they both acknowledged that they were in love with each other:
Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
I must have done something good
Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
Somewhere in my youth and childhood
I must have done something good
I always get teary-eyed when I sing that song. I do not know why. It is just so lovely.
• Pajamas in a Christmas party. One day a package arrived from Tita Liclic in Cebu. It was a pantsuit that was pretty enough, solid bottoms and printed floral tops, but with a fully garterized waist that reminded me suspiciously of pajamas. My sister and I had exactly the same, just in different colors. My mom insisted we wear it to the Christmas party for all our workers. My sister and I refused. But she would not budge, and laid on the guilt thickly by saying Tita Liclic would be so happy when she saw the pictures that showed we wore it to the party. Being very obedient children of the early ’80s we put on the outfits and went through the whole party shebang — Trip To Jerusalem, Maria Goes to Town, Christmas presentations, raffle draws. The following day, Tita Liclic called up long distance to ask how we liked the pajamas we sent.
• My 16th birthday cake. I cried when I saw it. It was tinier than I was led to believe and the doll on top of it had the most crooked face. The buttercream was not smooth and the colors were not bright enough. It was a sad-looking concoction, something that almost was, but just couldn’t be. If not for my guests, I would have really burst into tears. But there really is a God and my party at home that night with my classmates turned out to be so much fun. And when we sliced the cake it was all good inside, moist and baked just perfectly. That was my first lesson in 1) how the cake does not make the party, and more importantly 2) how to never “judge a book by its cover.”
• Stickers, stationery, stamps. In my childhood, every pretty little thing felt like a present. I loved receiving letters from friends, and it was always a thrill to get something from the postman. Often these letters would have a sheet or two of blank pretty stationery folded with it, or stickers, or stamps. That would go back and forth a lot among us. That would totally make my day. My cousin Trica would also send me by mail what I would refer to as “jewels from the sea” — shards of colored, broken glass, its edges already softened by the elements. They looked like precious stones ready to be mounted as rings and pendants. It was during my childhood that I learned how things do not have to be expensive to be pretty and vise versa. I was very happy with a treasure chest that included grosgrain ribbons, nice paper, candy wrappers made into flowers, stickers, my books. We also explored our creativity with bars of soap that were pinned and then covered with ribbons to resemble fat little baskets laden with flowers. They made very pretty room scents. Life was so much simpler back then.
There. I feel happier already. Now I am going to take a shower and snuggle cozily under the sheets with a good book. And when the new book I got because the title spoke to me doesn’t turn out to be quite the gem I expect it to be I can just put it aside and think of more happy childhood memories until sleep finally finds me. I know tomorrow will be a much better day.
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