Thursday, March 24, 2011
When I was 10, my paternal grandmother(+) took me for a vacation in Bicol. I stayed there for two months, and that was the longest time that I would have to be away as a kid from my mom and my home, miles and miles away from Manila. There was excitement in the first days while I explored the place.
It was fun in the first weeks, but my excitement passed and homesickness crept in, especially when I would hear my lola joke that I would stay in our ancestral house. That, was the first time that I celebrated my birthday away from home.
As I remembered the days with my family, sadness caught me. All I could do was silently cry holding a picture of our clan that my lola kept in a box. I would run to the room after a tiresome day helping in doing the chores, and after I would get scolded for some mischief. I would look at our family picture.
And I would wish that everything were just a dream, that when I woke up, I would be back home. The fondest memories in that family picture became my refuge, my room a sanctuary to relive happy moments, which then I was not sure I could find again because my Lola as the family matriarch could just keep me there with her.
Today, I had to hold my tears as one student in my speech class shared what all she wanted in life -- a picture with all the happy smiles from her family. She broke in tears in front of the class as she told us how she was affected witnessing her family broke because her mom left.
She said she went through being an "emo-suicidish" girl with less interest to be with others or even excel. Then I felt, I was blessed, even though I spent only seven years with a dad, and the rest with my widowed mom. My siblings and I were like orphaned without a father.
We did not have studio photos of our family or pictures outdoors having bonding time. I could count the pictures where my father was there with us. I could not frame or hang any photo of my family on the wall. That is if I keep believing that a family is composed of a father, a mother and their children.
In my heart's memory is a picture of me being carried by dad going home, my mom walking by her and my elder siblings following behind. This was the usual picture of us, going home from my dad's car shop. There it is vivid, how my family values each other, how my mother loves my father, how my siblings respect and trust my parents, and how my dad cares for me.
My family was not also ordinary. I had a sister(+) from my mom, before she became my dad's common law wife. My dad had four children, then he courted my mom when his first wife died. I grew up with my four half siblings and two full consanguine siblings. But there was no difference at all, with and without my father, we identified with each other as a common family.
What makes a family a family is that of the concern, care, respect, trust and above all love that one shares with another. The picture of a family is not always perpect as how many idealize it to be. We are blessed with a family, even if that one caring for us is a single parent, a sibling or a plain relative, or not of our same blood. A family is a relationship, filled with memories, expectations and emotions. The picture is not always the same in everyone's life.
Traditional old school pictures fade, digital photos can be corrupted. The picture of family varies from one group of people in relationship to another. When I recall my father's physical presence in our home, I would miss him a lot, but what I have left is still my family, whatever the picture is like.