Every day I wake up to the sound of roosters crowing. They help me rise and shine. My hearing is the first to wake, then my sense of smell wakes to the aroma of breakfast my grandma so lovingly cooks in the kitchen, my eyes wake to the brightness that filters through my eyelids and finally I sense the sheets that cover me, the bed warm underneath me. I roll to my side and sling my arm and leg to dangle a bit at the end of the bedside, I inhale one long deep breath, release it and then I’m up. The floor is warm beneath my feet. The wind plays its melody and my hair dances to its tune. I’m awake. My body becomes lighter. I make my way out of the bedroom and head for the bathroom to wash up and change to my school uniform.
I head down the wooden spiral staircase, my hand run along the glossy smooth finish of the balustrade for support. The aroma of fresh breakfast increases in allure and my stomach growls of anticipation of good food. I headline for the kitchen. I pass the TV blaring a blurry version of a news on the way. A storm is coming, I think it says. I sit and eat at the table, greeted by my dad and mom who is already in her teacher uniform drinking coffee with my grandma and my sister, who is eating her breakfast too. Every day there is rice. We are having garlic fried rice, well done sunny side up eggs, and tocino (sweetened pork). It’s my favorite breakfast because it combines sweet and salty. My mouth salivates and I hungrily eat. I eat until I’m full.
Outside, before heading for school, I see my grandpa in the garden. He waters the orchids hanging in the baskets by the side of the Santol (Cotton Fruit) tree and sweeps the ground to collect the dead leaves that have fallen from the surrounding plants and trees with a walis ting-ting (broom) made from the midrib of palm leaves. He nods a hello when he sees us. He is in his element there, back in perfect health as he bends down and rises with every sweep. Our dogs, Poncha and Otreo come and bark to say hello too. I pet them a little and their little puppies too with their tails all wagging in happiness. Our dog Blacky, with his shiny coat of black fur, lays down on the marble floor, head up, tail wagging. He’s the oldest and quietest of them all.
I walk to school every morning with my mom. My sister walks with her friends. I welcome the morning exercise and I’m excited to get to school and see my friends. My hair in a ponytail swings back and forth behind me as I walk. Neighbors who are up and outside, smile and say hello when they see us. My mom smiles and says hello, I pretend I don’t hear, too shy to make eye contact. I use my mom as a shield to hide. I feel my mom’s arm around me and the reassuring squeeze her hand gives me.
Mom’s school is just before mine. I am greeted by friends and walk with them for the rest of the way. Our school is by the town church. It sits grand and majestic in size, about 5 stories high, made of stone and constructed in the 1800s. My sister is a member of the choir there. We attend mass every Sunday and every day during Flores de Mayo (The Flowers of May). I do a sign of the cross each time I pass it before and after school.
Just several feet from the school, I hear kids play basketball for a last chance of the game before school starts. Their school uniform shirts off, wearing only their sando (undershirt). I watch them a little to see if any of my friends are there before heading for school. The vendors entice us a little for a quick breakfast.
I reach the school and the sound of laughter fills the air. Some are playing a game of sipa (where you kick a bundle of rubber bands in repetition without it touching the floor), some play a game of chinese garter (where you jump above a string of garter and the height increases each time you successfully do), some just sit or stand to chat before the bell rings.
When the warning bell rings, we head to the plaza to form lines, grouped together by grade, to sing the national anthem, exercise, and hear the morning school announcements. Sometimes the speaker doesn’t work and we exercise to the tune of a beat made with banging a stick to an upside down bucket. We count to eight and back each exercise repetition. When the morning announcement is done, we head for our respective classes. I learned how to speak English early on because it was part of our curriculum. I am bilingual ever since I can remember.
Midday, we head for home to eat lunch. I stop by mom’s school to walk with her home. My grandma has food already waiting for us. My grandpa and dad and sister waits to eat with us. Full with food, we head back to school again. I don’t quite remember how long school is but it is still bright when it is done.
After school, I eat a snack and do my homework so I can watch TV when it is done before dinner rolls around. I go to help my grandma sometimes in the kitchen. I share my love of cooking and eating with her. Across, the dirty kitchen, I see my grandpa sweeping the garden to start a small bonfire to burn the dead leaves to smoke out the trees of insects. The smoke makes its way in the kitchen through the screen wall. I love the smell of leaves burning. Some days I join my grandpa in the garden and roast freshly picked cashews in them. They pop as they cook.
At dinner, we sit together and eat and talk about our day. My dad starts a game of Monopoly afterward. We play it under the wooden spiral staircase where two sofas and a table take residence. Some nights we sit outside in the swing house, built with 2 benches across each other and a table in between. The whole thing is made of wood and swings back and forth. We spend many nights there during power outages where my aunts tell us ghost stories to scare us kids. The cool wind is a welcomed guest as it blows across. I hear the sounds of tiny splashing in the background made by the goldfish in the small fish pond nearby. Night vendors call out to sell balut (boiled duck egg). I fall asleep in my mothers embrace sometimes in the swing, which usually denotes bed time.
Then, the day begins again.
This is just a glimpse of what life was like for me back then. For this week’s #ThrowbackThursdayThankfulnessChallenge, I am thankful for the habits of my childhood because it brought our family together and as a result, I have lived a happy childhood. Humans are creatures of habit and we can form good and bad habits just the same. There is bad woven in the good memories; but overall, I choose to remember the good and likely will try to continue to do the same. My past has shaped me to be the person I am today. I am thankful every day for a past I can impart with ease, fond memories filled with family and love.
What are you thankful for this 2nd (or 3rd week) of November’s Thankfulness Challenge?