There are things that take me back in time – images of events, places, and people. It could be from a photo, fashion, a scar (physically or emotionally), somebody’s cooking, gestures, scents or somebody’s situation where probably I was before. It could be a happy or sad memory, or something worth sharing and to laugh about, inspiring or embarrassing.
But scents and music are the two things that quickly trigger a lot of memories in my head.
I can see the image of my mom playing her guitar sitting on a Banig (native sleeping mat) on the floor using an improvised Lamparilla to lit up our living room and help her read her song book. Her favorite hits were Obladi Obladi by The Beatles, Boulevard by Dan Byrd, Changes In My Life by Jed Madela – she played this song hundred times and she even taught me to sing it with action, Paper Roses by Marie Osmond – this is the very first song I heard her play with her guitar and mind you, if I give her a guitar now, she will do this song in a heart beat. I can see mom’s fingers forming the basic chords and her strumming. She played well. Her voice was music in our home.
We did not have electricity growing up. You would know which one was our house because the only household that is not bright at night was ours; and we lived right at the corner of the street. At least, the street light gives off light thru our two windows. My mom had a battery operated radio, she would turn it on for weather forecast and when her favorite soap opera, Matud Nila, is on.
See, this is what music do to me. This reminds me how much I have to be thankful for. We grow up poor. Those were the old days when my Dad pursue college while working in his parent’s rice field, and at the same time, him and mom have the five of us. I used to carry an empty pot to my grandparents’ to be filled with rice and sometimes come home still empty. I remember my mom would tell me not to swing the aluminum pot when it is empty as I walk home so that our neighbors would not know that we don’t have rice for dinner. The lid would come off down to the unpaved road and would make noise and probably caught our neighbor’s attention. We would end up eating Saba (Plantain Banana) served with Kalamay (round candy that taste like molasses) to make it taste better.
When I was a baker at Dunkin Donuts, the smell of Sour Cream Donut reminds me of my mom’s deep-fried donut. It brings me back to those memories where I had to crack the Bagol (coconut shell), pile it up in a certain way to start a fire in our Sug-angan (cooking pit). My mother did not know how to cook until when my father left to work overseas. She leaped for joy the first time she cooked Pancit (rice noodles). She was so proud of herself. When we had a Carenderia (local eatery), I was her helper in the kitchen. I was 12 years old and we would wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning and walk from our house to the eatery. We had to wake up that early so Mother can get fresh meat in the market and we had to cut the freaking meat depending on what recipe she have in mind. I said freaking meat because I hated cutting 10 to 15 lbs. of meat. Unlike here, the meat are already cut. We would start cooking as early as we can, when we’re done I would go back to sleep with sore muscles in my shoulder, wake up and get ready for school. I got a break from being a cook when I went to college, but when I am home particularly on weekends, I had to help. I have four siblings but she preferred to have me as helper because I know how to cook. Growing up, my chore in the house was more in the kitchen that includes cleaning, washing the dishes and cooking our meal. While my sister was with the laundry and ironing and cleaning the living room.
During my Dad’s vacation, we would cook together too. We would listen to music and play guessing game. We would guess of who the artist is from the song we were listening. Up to this day, I can see my Dad and I in that old “dirty kitchen” (extra kitchen outside) cooking together and competing to that game. He love to lay down, shirtless, on our concrete floor as he listens to his loud music. The red concrete floor was a good spot for us inside the house when it is too hot out. When the temperature “goes down” especially in the afternoon, we would ride a moped (motorbike).
Music has been part of me growing up. Dad got me a keyboard but I was not good at it. Maybe we live too far from the city where I could have gone for a piano lesson. But I love playing the guitar (I still do). I really did not care much about going out with friends in the weekend. As kids, plus I am a girl, I should be learning to do chores in the house according to my parents. The break I could get was playing the guitar, sing-a-long with a minus one tape and pretend I am a song writer. I did join a singing competition once where I forgot the lyrics and heard the crowd oohed. It was embarrassing. It was nuts.
I have a lot to write. I do have sad memories too, but I prefer the good ones. Something that makes me smile.
And by the way, when I smell the Christian Dior Poison Perfume (a present my mom used to get when my Dad would come home from overseas), it reminds me of my mom and I at the Pawnshop lending her piece of jewelry when money is short, and we would ride the public bus going home with lots of food for my brothers and sister, and I would tell her, “Nanay , you smell like an angel.”