11 October 2007

Pepsi & Lumpia October

Growing up Filipina, I didn’t have any strong connections to my culture. My mother spoke Tagalog and broken English. Her English improved and soon I heard Tagalog very rarely, maybe when she was on “da pon weed ower pameely een sahn prahnceesco.” I remember thinking that the way my mother spoke was different from the way that others did. Sometimes the difference made me uncomfortable, but Mom was Mom and there was no one like her.

Everyone liked my mother for her style, her sense of humour, her laugh and the one thing other than her infectious laugh and wonderful company we all pined for was her lumpia. Wait, what is lumpia? Everyone’s friend, of course. The discomfort mentioned above was a product and reflection of the times. I was born in the late 60’s. (Unfortunately, I just read that the times are still sometimes now as heard in Desperate Housewives and at H&M in Chicago!) Lumpia made everything better and easier. Or at least they made people smile and act less hungry. These are things that I learned from my mother. Seriously, what can be so horrible if you can make amazing food and so many people smile? My mother’s lumpia was so amazing that once a friend wanted to get the recipe and start making them commercially. My Mom was appalled. Me, give you *MY* recipe? (Tone: What? Are you stupid?) I think it had to do more with that someone wanted to use it/us for personal gain. And that’s a whole other thing my Mom had and passed on to me, but more about that later.

More on the 60’s and 70’s: being different was still difficult. I remember riding the school bus in Chicago, being made fun of because of the shadow on my upper lip. Thanks to my mother and my Spanish paternal grandmother, I had a moustache. I was really popular until the moustache comment. Oh, let me explain that. I had a big crush on Timothy Lockheart in second grade and he on me. We looked for each other on the bus and sometimes we secretly held hands. Until one day, someone exclaimed that I looked like a man. (That still hurts by the way, you impish little insensitive second grader with poor manners!)Impressionable and spineless, he conformed to their way of behaving and began not sitting with me. Thank goodness he didn’t make fun of me too. That would have sent my little pinay heart exploding into tiny sad shrapnel impossible to recover. And while this behaviour is unacceptable and immature for us adults, I was only 7. Had it been modern day, this pinay would have kicked his behind into the next stratosphere. (Sorry, I’ve been getting small doses of the new and improved Jamie Somers (sp?)for all you into 70’s shows that just won’t die.)

The pride went by the wayside until the late 80’s and early 90’s. In my 20’s my mother and I began to try to connect. We hadn’t been very connected when I was younger and I’m hoping that I can do things differently with Miss B. So in the late 80’s we reconnected through fashion, albeit bad fashion, and cooking and restaurants and shopping and parties. My mother was really proud of me and I didn’t realize it back then, but I was a blossoming bud and she wanted to bring her beauty out to every place she possibly could to show the world what an amazing young lady she had created. It took us a long time to get there.

I can see this only now as I am a mother to two girls, one tiny and one in first grade. I realize that it is a mother’s wish to cut the learning curve at least in half for those who follow in our footsteps. And we do follow, no matter our attempts to cut a different path. The path can look different, but there will always be similar foliage along the way.

So enough of the back story already, because it’s superfluous to my point. Last August my mother died of breast cancer after a four year battle. One year she missed her mammo. Because they moved, she didn’t receive the reminder in the mail. Just one mammo missed and bam! Life changes. People change. In the end everything was pure again. It was a really confusing time for all of us. Chemobrain is only a recent discovery and acknowledgment. My mom really suffered. And we all suffered with her. I will never stop missing her and will never forget what great hugs she gave. All that she gave. Sure she took a lot too and she could be a drama queen, but she gave everything. In the end, she died two days after my birthday and somehow knowing my mother’s love for my brother and I, it was every ounce intentional to not die on my birthday. She never forgot a birthday or holiday card. Right until the very end. I still have my last birthday card. Thank you Mom for all you were and all that you gave.

During this past year, I have begun grieve but it took awhile. There were a few roadbumps that will go unmentioned. Like my mother’s womanly pinay spirit I took care of everyone else first, despite the fact that I was about to give birth. There were so many people that took care of me too. Thank goodness for a solid network of support during this difficult time. A friend sent emails letting many folks in my local community know. My husband and his family were incredible and without them I could not have supported my stepfather and siblings. I unfortunately pushed some good friends away though because of the hurt.

Recently I have let go of the clothing that I kept that was my mother’s. And finally replaced the plant that my husband’s employer gave me with a lovely bromeliad selected by Miss B. I let go of the picture that was blown up for the memorial service. I don’t know why, but it was the most painful part. I stopped liking the photo. It was grainy and in a frame that was purchased for the mere purpose of the memorial service. And if I were going to have photos of my mother around, I would have to search for the best ones. I have one of her at one of the beaches in PI, smiling and swimming. She is why I am who I am. Of the sea, strong, demanding, energetic, creative, and I can hit the dickens out of a softball. True, the apple never falls far from the tree. Thanks Mom. I’m tipping a glass of Pepsi to you.

October is for so many things: Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Filipino American Heritage Month, and probably other things I am not aware of. No pun intended! It’s Halloween for sure and Sprites Night at our Waldorf school, grape crush here in the Wine Country, and of course the Harvest Fair. These last few things make this certainly my favorite time of year!


Heidi Hyde said...

This is beautiful. You have quite a talent. I so look forward to future reading. It's difficult to portray in a comment how truly moved I was by your post.


mamazilla said...

thank you for sharing your mother and your memories. you are strong like her and the sea. i'm so very sorry for your loss.

mom2amara said...

Wonderful post!

And congrats on the Redbook write up!

Anonymous said...

letting go is so hard to do. you are brave and strong and I feel lucky to have met you here. great write up in Redbook.