Wednesday, January 23, 2013

bits and pieces of home

I'm not a good storyteller.

I don't remember details of what was said by whom and how it was said and when.... much to my mother's chagrin when she wants to hear juicy stories of moments like when A. proposed and what-not. My mom, on the other hand, remembers everything, from the exact words to the speaker's intonation. In contrast, I might remember a few quick conversational exchanges at the most, but that's about it. I do have a really good memory for strange purposes/things like restaurant menus. Don't judge.

All that said, I don't have a long story of my trip to India and the Philippines. My amazing, month-long, 12-airports-in-30-days trip.

What I do remember, are images. Moments captured either on camera, but mostly those that are in a freeze-frame in my mind. And I remember, with clarity, what I felt at the time.

So my stories might come in short bursts here in there. Not necessarily in chronological order.

Even this post took me several "installments" to write, because the stories come back when I least expect it, and not in any linear fashion. So I write in bits and pieces, what I remember and when I remember it. And I write, so that I can remember.

(And also, I had to hit the ground running as the semester started a couple of days after I arrived back here... hence having to write in small chunks of time here and there.)

I surprised myself by not taking as many pictures as I thought I would on this trip, especially in the Philippines. Under other circumstances, photography helps me appreciate the moment and pay attention to details. But a big part of me wanted to just soak it all in, and not behind a camera. With the thinking that the several seconds or that minute I spend getting the settings on my camera just right for each shot adds up, over the course of a month and hundreds of pictures, to potentially hours spent not being fully present with my family. 


I remember this tug at my heartstrings watching my sweet niece P. Thinking about how fast she's growing, and how she sometimes talks like an adult even at age 4. How she asked me to read the book I gave her, The Princess and the Pizza (in which the heroine has the same name as she! And as a side note, I love the feminist perspective of the story), again and again during a road trip. And how affectionate she is to everyone, randomly giving hugs, kisses, and I-love-yous to any member of the family, including A.

my niece's naturally wavy ponytail

Oh, and I do remember this one brief exchange as retold by my brother (her dad).

One morning, while we were vacationing in Cebu (a city south of the capital, Manila), P wakes up, and with her eyes half-closed she stretches in bed, and sleepily says: "I love Tito A." (as in my husband A.). Mind you., A. wasn't even with us at the time, because he had to fly home to Cleveland sooner. And then, almost like she suddenly remembered, her eyes open fully and she sees my brother standing in front of her. Then quickly, she says:

"Oh, I love you too, Dad."

Nice save, P. :)

And it made me reminisce with my parents, those days when my nephews (now pre-teens... how did that happen?) were babies. And my other 4-year-old niece's voice mail saying, "Hi Tita Mia, I'm big now, I'm going to school."


I remember both the warmth that accompanies that trip-down-memory-lane, as well as the slight ache in my belly (that is where I feel things, you know. Again... don't judge) as I pored over old photos of my late grandparents, framed and preserved in my parents' home. The home I grew up in.

Like this one. My grandfather, the perfect example of "chivalry is not dead" -- even as they were approaching 90 (!) -- asked my mom to set up a candelit dinner for two in our gazebo for their 60+ wedding anniversary.

One of my parents snapped this picture then, and while I did not witness this moment in person, it made me remember all his other romantic gestures toward my grandma. Like quoting Shakespeare to her, out of the blue, as they sat in our lanai overlooking the garden, resting after a long afternoon of tending to their flowers and plants.


I remember, with the same clarity as the turquoise waters of Boracay, a shift in perspective.

Under other circumstances, work fills my mind majority of the time. And yes, you'll probably hate me for this but I did work a bit while I was away - I had to finish grading in India because we flew out the very next day after my last day of teaching. Then twice I had to wake up for 2 am conference calls for my new consulting job, to speak to people who did not know I was away and in a completely opposite time zone. But I did not work much else aside from that. It was refreshing to not have work occupy so much space in my brain, and instead linger at the breakfast table.

Work is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

I know, it's nothing groundbreaking. And while I always knew that, I felt it even more strongly with the limited time I had with my family. And what a blessing that was. Yes, working is what pays the bills and helps us travel, and we are absolutely thankful for that. But the bigger picture, really, is family...and old friends who are practically family. Nurturing those relationships that enrich our lives like nothing else does.

Not all my projects, each at a different stage toward completion. Not the fact that I need to get my manuscript published. They always say in the world of academia, "publish or perish". But in the bigger picture, it's really not the end of the world.

But my niece will only be 4 years old once. And I will only stand at this exact spot at this exact time on this exact date once in my life.

Boracay, Philippines

It is a gift.


*For a detailed review of the foodie experience in the Philippines, from the unique perspective of an Indian national-US citizen-current resident of Germany-honorary Filipina (whew!), visit my friend's blog post here.

*I also have India on my mind. But those stories will come in bits and pieces as well. More on that later.

*Tito = Uncle, Tita = Aunt

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anne said...

you tell your story in a different way, and it IS good! you write in a way that brings the emotions out, and even though i wasn't there, i feel them!

thank you for sharing these bits and pieces!

Mia (Savor Everyday) said...

Thank you for reading Anne!

I feel so nostalgic right now, as I look at the snow outside my window...

You must be feeling it too after your recent trip!

cyberlaundry said...

Teary-la-loo ang lola mo ngayon. Buti walang nakakakita sa opisina.

I'm so, so, SO glad you got to come home and soak things in.

Hugs to you and A.

Mia (Savor Everyday) said...

Camille! It was so great seeing you - especially having the extra afternoon to catch up!

krishwala said...

this is so sweet. It was endearing to read about your grandparents. I am happy you enjoyed your time with P and accepted work will always be there but the opportunity to make memories with loved ones doesn't come often.

Mia (Savor Everyday) said...

Hi Krishna! Yes, my grandparents were/are very much a part of our lives. I wish you could have met them. Everywhere they went in which people knew them - the hospital, the store, etc - people would say, "here are the lovebirds!"

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