Sometimes we are led as if by the hand, gently, guided and broken into some strange and new space that, if you are fortunate, may not feel so strange or so new after all.
How little we know about how life will actually play out. And how little of it we can control, really.
Then there are those moments when life sort of grabs you by the shoulders and gives you a good shake, impertinently and without warning, like a naughty playmate springing out from behind the cabinet door where he has been hiding all along, scaring the wits out of you. You are too stunned to react mindfully, and you sort of let the shock propel you to where it takes you, all the while praying, if subconsciously and most likely ceaselessly, that you will find yourself in some space you will eventually learn to live with, if not love.
Late last year, I decided to start a blog. I wanted to have an outlet for the many little thoughts that incessantly spin like happy ribbons in and around my head. I knew it did not have to be anything as long as it could be a regular entry in my Sunday column. The blog would allow me to be flighty and nonsensical, it would allow me to be quiet during those times when a photo would be enough.
A blog will afford me the freedom to be whimsical, answerable only to me, myself, and I. Over and above that, it would grant me a million ways to document the gazillion joys that could be had within the confines of a day, if you only make an effort to be more aware of them. The happiness that comes from finding one lonely bloom in a garden that up until then has proven to be barren. Chancing upon the best fried chicken in a place that did not look like their fried chicken would even be good to begin with. Wondering about why a tear is so perfectly shaped. Hugging a child who cannot wait to wiggle out of that embrace that is really just a minute long but feels like an eternity for her because she just wants to play under the morning sun and get all sweaty like a little puppy dog. The blog will be like a diary of sorts.
But being technically challenged, I could not get myself to start it. I would not start it, I told myself, until I could set aside a couple of absolutely free days and pin down someone generous and patient enough to guide me and shorten the learning curve somewhat.
Of course, as mundane plans usually go it just never happened. I kept putting it off. It was always just this little happy pocket hovering over my head on the best of days. But as luck would have it and in what would perhaps be my only absolutely boring day for the year (one day very early in January of this year) I decided on a whim, as I sat at the kitchen table, to just make a go for it. The day suggested that it would stretch out before me endlessly and I was home alone, with most everyone else picking themselves up and recharging in different ways from the daze the holidays had indulgently wrought.
It took me some really good hours to set up, maybe four or six, but I got it done. Somehow. I was able to set up my page and establish the beginnings of a friendship with computer applications necessary in the maintenance of a blog. It felt good because I did it all by myself, with a few phone calls in between to Rica, my brother’s girlfriend.
Alas, it was not meant to be anything more than just a short-lived romance. After maybe about a dozen entries and even fewer photographs I got busy on the campaign trail and towards the homestretch life got in the way in a very major way and I became the candidate. Now I am actually in politics. I never would have guessed life would play out this way.
So. From that time onwards, there has been a lot of adjustments, a lot of learnings, and more of the same goes on and on, day to day. Needless to say, I had to abandon my blog. There just is no time for me to do that anymore. One day, I know I will pick it up again, not just now. Time. There seems to be so little of that now, and I know that is only because I have to squeeze in so many schedules in one day, like it or not.
As a mother especially, I get wracked by guilt more than just a little, and more than just sometimes. Will I walk in the door one day and find my daughter all grown up already? Is this how the OFWs feel? My own mother was always home when we arrived from anywhere. We would run to her room when we got in from school because we knew we would find her there. I would watch her put on makeup, choose her clothes, match them with shoes. She would sit by a low cabinet that concealed the safe to choose her jewelry. Then off she would go to church looking pretty and mommy-ish and making me feel very much like I could not wait to grow up and be pretty and mommy-ish too. Wednesdays and Fridays, my sister and I would go with her. To pray for a good husband each. Mommy started us early on that devotion. It worked.
I look at Juliana, all of 10 years old now, and I wonder: Will I wake up one day and she is already in high heels and I would not know for sure where the time went? How much of the memories she makes for herself will I be part of now that I am so busy? For what they seem to only sentimentally be, I know how they (memories I mean) can be treasure troves of lessons learned. They shape us, giving form and function to traditions and thoughts and rituals entirely our own.
By Juliana’s bed is a sturdy pink box, like a makeup kit but lighter and cuter. Inside it are her current favorite Haumika dolls. It is so tender when I look around the little space she has built for herself in our bedroom. Her pink desk that wants to be busy, filled with mini versions of most everything found in my own working space. On a board on her wall, pretty metal magnets hold in place photos of her playing baseball with her friends, candy wrappers she found too pretty to throw away, a portrait I made of her way back in 2007 while we were cuddling in bed.
She has covered our bedroom sofa in her pink sheets and my pink scarves, her pink blankets. A Monopoly set is on the floor, waiting for us to engage in it. She walks around the room in my heels and shades, mimicking people and me she sees on the Disney Channel, copying accents and sending me into fits of laughter. How much longer will she stay this way? Pure and innocent like soap and water and not talking about boys just yet. Her thoughts that make me laugh out loud even if and especially when she is serious.
“Juliana, when Daddy and I are in our 80’s already, will you take care of us?”
“Yes, Mom, you will have your own pink room in my pink house that you can share with Daddy if he does not mind the pinkness of it.”
“What if I cannot walk anymore, and I have arthritis…”
“I will give you the prettiest pink wheelchair, Mama.”
“Honey, will you still be attracted to me when I am 80 already?”
My husband does not answer except to laugh and shake his head in amusement.
“Juliana, you think your Daddy will still find me attractive when I am wrinkly and 80 and my skin is loose and my hair is white?”
She is doodling on a notebook, making shapes that do not mean anything but are beautiful in my eyes anyway. She answers without looking up. “I really do not know, Mom.” And then she chuckles, almost to herself and says very respectfully and very apologetically to me: “I think…maybe…NOT.”
The last word is said with conviction, and there is palpable relief almost in her voice, the same kind of sound that happens when the truth is finally out. We all laugh.
Many times nowadays I find myself shifting between two thoughts: Wanting to be a child again, if only to enjoy the freedom that comes with it, and accepting the fact that I no longer am. Why, oh why, am I so busy? But then again, when should I be so busy? When I am too old to cope with what being busy means? I remember my own childhood which, like it or not, foreshadows the ideals of how I wish my own daughter’s childhood would be. Again, I ask, what memories will she make? I am too scared to ask her if she resents, if she even knows that feeling already, all the time I have to spend away from her when work calls.
We quill paper flowers together and we are happy as can be. But there is a restlessness about me that shows in different ways. I have to let go of this guilt, misplaced as it is, and just take life a day at a time. My job is to be faithful to where I am right now, to the work that has been set before me, whether it is for showbiz, for politics, for my real life roles as wife, mother, daughter, employer, employee, friend. Be that as it may, the consequences are of my own making and I have no right to lament what has become of my days.
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