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Young Blood

Of guavas and cakes

My parents’ 25th wedding anniversary was on April 23.

My father courted my mother for two years and, based on what she told me, he brought her three guavas that he picked from his neighbor’s backyard. She only received two. In his defense, he said a kid asked for one and he gave it to her.

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My mother had a lot of suitors, but she chose my father. I think it was because she felt bad for him — thanks to the kid who asked for the guava. They got married in a small barangay in the province after some time. I still get amazed whenever I remember Mama saying she baked their three-tier wedding cake. The first time I heard the story, the only thing I said was, “That’s a lot of cake.”

Now that I’m 24 and have already witnessed the hassle and stress of planning events, I wish I said, “That’s a lot of cake. Why didn’t you hire someone to do it?”

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My parents couldn’t be more opposite. They had different interests, backgrounds and personalities. When my father was angry, he wouldn’t shut up. My mother, on the other hand, wouldn’t talk. I couldn’t figure out which was worse back then—his thundering voice or her absolute silence. I just know that both were deafening.

I remember waking up to my mother’s nagging early in the morning while Tatay was in the backyard feeding his chickens. As the eldest, I was expected to go to my sisters’ rooms to wake them up. I’ve always loved it, because when a simple nudge wouldn’t do the trick, I had my mother’s blessing to bring a glass of cold water and splash it on their innocent sleeping faces. If we fought the previous night, I would dump the entire glass of water and the catfights would begin.

It was a simple life, and I used to wish it didn’t have to be like that because it was boring.

As a child, I couldn’t understand our setup. Unlike my classmates’ parents, my mother went to work and my father was at home and did household chores. When I was in grade school, I didn’t like it every time I had to write down my father’s occupation. My answers would vary. Sometimes, I wrote down “farmer,” and then after a few years, I changed it to “househusband.” I thought of every possible answer, because I didn’t want to write “none.” It was really frustrating, because I wanted a working father and that’s why when fights happened, I always sided with my mother.

They had arguments that made me cry. They would throw dishes down in anger, and the sound of plates and glasses crashing and smashing on the walls and floors made me tremble. I hated it when they fought, so I wrote them a lot of letters because I felt braver whenever my words were written on a piece of paper. I told Mama I love her, and I told Tatay he needed to stop loving his chickens so much because my youngest sister was already getting jealous.

I can barely remember the reason for those fights, and looking back, I’m not sure whether I’m going to smile or cry.

Today is supposedly their 25th wedding anniversary; I only remembered because Tatay told me. Mama died six years ago, and I can’t ask her any more questions.

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My father didn’t have a regular job, a fact I wasn’t proud of, until I realized how much his presence mattered when Mama got sick. While we were in school, both of them stayed home. He gave her a bath, combed her hair and spoon-fed her her meals. I know it was difficult, because my sisters and I took care of her, too. But I naively thought he was strong enough to handle it, because for four years, he didn’t say he was tired. And he never cried — except during her funeral.

I wish I asked Mama more about her life. Aside from the stolen guavas and the wedding cakes, I want to ask mundane questions that may seem silly to some, but those answers are the ones I will remember when all is said and done.

I’ve grown much closer to my father as the years have passed. I don’t nag him about his chickens anymore. He sends smileys whenever I ask how he’s doing, and when I ask about his roosters, he sends a lot of dancing stickers.

He’s happy, and that’s all that matters to me.

The crashing plates, crowing roosters and early-morning nagging are gone. My memories about the guava stories and three-tier wedding cakes are slowly fading, so I tell these stories now because I don’t want to forget the trivial things that always make the biggest difference.

Most of the time, we are asked to let go of the past in order to hold on to the future. But I think the past, the present and the future can coexist without diminishing each one’s significance in our lives.

There are no guarantees in love and in life. Not everyone finds love, and those who do may not even reach their silver anniversary, just like how my parents didn’t. But who knows what will be? My father and mother taught me how to love even when fights arise and, most importantly, even when death arrives.

All throughout our ordeal, my father never stopped reminding me to pray and be grateful every day, even and especially when it was difficult to go on. I’m glad I listened to him, because despite all the times I said I didn’t want to continue anymore, here I am today, remembering guavas and cakes on their 25th wedding anniversary.

* * *

Syrine Gladys C. Podadera, 24, wrote two essays included in Young Blood books (sixth and seventh editions) and currently manages The Diarist Projects, an online platform for aspiring writers around the world.

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TAGS: courtship, parents, Syrine Gladys C. Podadera, Young Blood
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