The countdown has begun! Christmas is 10 days away.
Some of my children have decided to go away looking for snow. And for good reason! They have kids and grandkids in Washington State and Georgia.
I don’t take to the cold too well. Gone are the days of brisk walking, braced against the cold wind while window-shopping on 5th Avenue. It was exhilarating then. Not anymore.
I shall stay in Manila. If I want to shiver, I’ll get in my van and trek up the zigzag, visit Baguio and maybe talk to the ghosts of Christmases past. Why not?
Oh, this holiday frenzy! Late last week I reluctantly glanced at my shopping list and was horrified to discover I had bought nothing. After all, I figured, it’s no fun buying for people who won’t be there anyway to open their gifts under my tree.
One can really get steeped in tradition. We grow rigid in our ways and anything that dares go on a counterflow is unwelcome. I must confess that I was not overjoyed over the planned exodus of my family in search of winter.
Why Christmas? What happens now to my Noche Buena?
Silly woman, let’s get real!
Why not Christmas? When else are parents and children on hiatus from work and school? When and where else can they ski, make snowmen or enjoy “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”?
A sudden and wonderful “aha” moment made me realize that this is their time to live fully and make new memories.
Quickly I reviewed my list. Something for winter, my instincts told me. I thought of sweaters, scarves, hoodies. My problem was how to stay within a budget. Not easy.
With the help of my shopping genius (my first-born daughter) I ventured into my first bazaar. Eureka! We found soft and fuzzy, cuddly and cozy winter socks in hysterically bright colors. We scooped up several bunches to pick and choose from and made out like gangbusters. My mother would have been proud. “Bueno, bonito y barato”!
I stuffed them in see-through bags tied with red ribbons and played Santa at Sunday lunch. I was the hit of the season. The recipients, grown-ups and children alike, have promised to take selfies of their warm and toasty tootsies the minute they put them on.
From the latest CNN weather reports, I have a feeling they will need to wear the socks the minute they get off the plane.
At a hamburger cookout the other night, we talked about age and aging. I casually remarked that it is demoralizing to look for the year of my birth online. It seems I must scroll down all the way to China and still my year does not show.
My sister thinks they have done away with the 1930s. “They think we are all dead,” she jests. But of course they do have it. It just takes forever to get down there.
A young man sitting beside me (the grandson of my best boss ever) seemed amused. Timidly he asked: “Do you remember anything about World War II?”
I gulped my root beer (known in my day as sarsaparilla) and nodded.
My thoughts went back to a time 72 years ago.
When I first heard that war had been declared, I didn’t know what they were talking about. It was a gentle innocent era. Children knew very little, if anything, about war. That was grownup stuff. Was war something to fear? I had no idea. I remember playing “war ball” in school. But that was fun.
My mother looked frightened. I don’t think she knew what to expect. My father was on his ship when Pearl Harbor happened. We had no news about him and there was no one there to explain or reassure her, except our Cabarrus family.
We moved with them to a house in New Manila. Also with us were the Lobregats and the Ghezzi brothers.
Those were good-looking boys, by the way. But I was nine. What did I know? We got together again in our teens. I don’t remember if there were sparks. But I was sad when they left for Spain and I never saw them again.
We had blackouts every night. In the dark we heard the adults speaking in hushed voices. We huddled in a corner and told ghost stories. For some reason I always ended up crying. Was I scared? I think they teased me a lot.
Once in a while we heard the drone of airplanes, distant explosions. We had no air raid shelters. Who knew about those things? But we crowded in the middle corridor between the bedrooms and prayed.
Except for the bombs, Christmas was quiet that year. I don’t remember any presents. There was no Christmas tree. But there was a little Belen with an angel holding a sign that said: Peace on Earth. How is that for pure irony?
We went back to Sampaloc just in time to see soldiers marching down our street; their boots made a strange scraping, scratchy sound on the pavement. It was the start of what today we know as The Japanese Occupation (1942-1945).
Last Wednesday, a well-dressed select capacity crowd gave “Jammin’ for Help, Thanking the World” a rousing and well-deserved standing ovation. Someone called it a perfect show, in a class all its own. What can I add to that and not sound biased?
This I will say: If you were not at the Rockwell Tent on Dec. 11, you missed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.