I walk through the doors and what seems like a perfume of flowers greets me. I look around to check where it may be coming from, but there is no bouquet — the plants and blooms arranged in vases are brimming with succulents only — they cannot be the source. Maybe a diffuser? Or a scented candle burning? Or could the girls have been so overly zealous in their cleaning that they took it upon themselves to choose some sweet-smelling scent in the grocery on market day and used it to spray every corner of the house? It intensifies as I walk towards the lanai. I look up and see what Richard would later tell me is a Talisay tree, abloom with white flowers. This is where the beautiful scent is from — different from theylang-ylang I was so used to in our first home but just as heady, the type that would make a good base for some French perfume. I try to freeze the poetic beauty of the tree with my phone camera, to share via Instagram, but it is too high up and my shot cannot capture all that is raw and perfect about it.
It’s been six days since I got back and each day, come evening when the sun sets, this big and beautiful Talisay tree that must be hundreds of years old bathes this home in an aroma so sweet it feels like a quiet gift, the kind that makes you smile and involuntarily look up beyond the clouds to That Big Man Up There just to say thank you — for today, for this moment, for now.
There are days when everything is just muddled together in a lump — schedules, thoughts, meals, feelings. And then there are days, like today, when there is this transparent quality to my thoughts that is so comforting. It is in the same breath that I say this does not mean that the outline of my days have become simpler, or less busy even. They still take on the same shape, basically, but today, I am at least afforded the clarity to not only see but also deal with them with a peace and calm that does not always come so easy. See, am not very good at multi-tasking. I get frazzled easily. I also don’t like too many problems to fix all at once. I’ll meet it head on, yes, but it ages me a thousand years. So on days like this when I can take on a bit more on my plate with what almost feels like serenity, I am grateful.
I do not know what makes today different. In yoga class before, I learned to settle into uncomfortable and challenging poses by breathing into it, not fighting the pain but somehow leaning into it. Strangely enough, by doing that, it becomes more a friend than a foe. In swim class, the few that I have had so far at least, I have learned that I stay afloat easily when I relax and just be; and that when doing the freestyle, I sink and lose my breath when I panic and struggle and let fear get ahead of myself. I have been going in and out of those thoughts over the past two weeks, as days that were so different from each other unfolded. Suffice to say that, yes, I may not always get my way, I may not have everything I want right now, but I am very blessed with more than I need. And I do not mean that in a material sense. There is much to be thankful for.
For instance, I learned this week that when someone who has wronged you tries to make amends, you at least give an inch. It feels good. And right. And not as difficult as it seems at the onset. And then there is the beautiful gift that is the kindness of strangers. A beautiful painting of a mother and child was dropped off at our home with no fuss, and following that an e-mail that said she and her daughter wanted me to keep the artwork from their personal collection until December, with their prayers that by then I, just as Richard and I have wished and prayed for so many years now, will finally conceive. How sweet is that? It is a lovely gesture through and through.
What else am I thankful for right now?
Being able to walk away or say no without regrets from something that just does not feel right anymore.
Randomly reading that the Holy Spirit intercepts our broken prayers, fixing them as it passes from our hearts and lips so that they are perfect before finally reaching God’s ears in heaven. I think that is absolutely beautiful.
I am thankful for remembrances of happy times when I was my daughter’s age, 13 years old, and stamps, stickers, and stationery were my greatest treasures. I chuckle at the prospect of telling that to most 13-year-olds nowadays and wonder at the level of giggles I will get in response. What are their treasures in this day and age? What do they barter among each other during recess I school?
I am grateful for Bluebell Ice Cream in Red Velvet (I never even knew there was a flavor like that!) and Vanilla Nut Milk from Juju. Mixed with saging na saba, the latter tastes luscious. I am even thankful for Sundays when all else seem to be going wrong and the only thing that make perfect sense are the beautiful songs sung during Mass.
I look at very old people, I think of those I love and know, and I cannot be sure if it is just me but I feel they fall mostly into two categories — very grumpy, or very funny. There seems to be more of the latter, thankfully. They are at that age when they can get away with anything, and they are refreshingly, truly just themselves. I am thankful for that promise that at a certain age, we let go and just really become our truest self. How liberating to be able to really say out loud unapologetically what, in my age now, just has to run around in little circles in my mind.
I am grateful for the people I work with and work for, in the same measure that I am for those that work for our family. We have a house girl who is forever smiling and singing. She used to be so rough before, always knocking things off shelves and going about her chores like she was the human version of a storm, but she has since improved for the better. And she knows more pop music than I do, easily rattling off names of singers whose songs I do not even know. But she is always happy, and quite funny with her comments, too. She asks me about falling in love and how she knows it is love. I tell her to not have textmates please and she laughs. Maybe she already has. I have another helper who can make candy as easily as she boils water — bukayo, peanut brittle, candied almonds and peanuts, guinataan. She’s been with us for years, yet she surprises us every now and then with skills we never even knew she had.
All these, the hodgepodge of good things that come via people and things, are part of the gift of every day.
Today was a bit disappointing for me. Okay, let me rephrase that. A little part of today was a bit disappointing for me. But I am assessing the situation objectively and it may prove to be a blessing in disguise in the long run. As I am thinking that, the cool November breeze finds its way to me in a nice early-evening embrace as we settle around the dinner table — father, mother, daughter, brother, husband. I have wonderful company tonight. And I trust I will have moved on from this disappointment by the time dessert happens. For that, there is delicious cheesecake, dropped off by Karen. And my favorite Fruit Jellies, a blast from my very happy childhood. Thank you for those, Tito Freddy. And if you’re reading this, the tub is now almost empty. Please send me more when you can.
You know what else is magical? Finally knowing the title of a song that has haunted me since my college days — Moonlight Serenade. I hum that quietly as I sit in the quiet of the night, writing this, wrapped in the scent of blooming flowers from the big, old, and beautiful Talisay tree.
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