Looking at photographs from long ago can be fun. It can also be a disconcerting experience. It is hard to imagine being so young; that once upon a time, you had no double chins. You actually had a jawline; the neck was smooth, and “Look at that face! Just look at it!” No lines!
We gape at the photographs with a sense of surprise, and of course, some regret. But, to be quite honest, I have done so with a feeling of awe as well, a disbelief and wonderment that I have been privileged to come this far.
Why am I writing about this? Perhaps because in the recent months, I have been immersed in looking at photos of the past, of eras too quickly gone, but never to be forgotten. Maybe it’s because another birthday approaches. So we light more candles! Bring them on!
Or perhaps I get weepy grateful and sentimental when I start thinking Thanksgiving, the tree, ornaments, the ribbons, the joy of being with family, and as inevitable consequence, remember the people I miss.
Christmas never fails to fill me with a deep nostalgia, a longing that won’t quit no matter how full and how ecstatic everything around me may seem. Missing is a painful but oh so delicious feeling. It is the awareness of a void, an empty space that once was full to overflowing and now aches with memories.
Ah, yes, those photographs. Quickly, after the oohs and aahs are done, you realize that you have traveled far and long, high and low, and up and down. Who me, over the hill? Never! I’m just down here taking a breather before my next climb.
Truly, what a privilege it is to be where I am today. And where am I? I believe I am exactly where God wants me to be. And that fills me with joy and peace.
There are many surveys online that bring up long forgotten lifestyles that signal the era you belong to. The latest one I read said that if you played outside until the streetlights came on, or drank water straight from the garden hose, that was a long time ago. Yes, it was.
My grandson once asked, “Who was born first, you or Snow White?”
What are your time markers? Here are some of mine:
Tranvias in the middle of Calle Legarda; buying maiz and mongo con hielo from the friendly “Japones” down the street; galletas at La Patria; walking the tubo from Aviles to Mendiola between Holy Ghost and San Beda College. During the war we rode a dokar, wore bakya, lined up for rations of rice and sardines.
I cleaned my aunt’s ornate sala furniture with “3-in-1” oil, which was really for her Singer sewing machine. I liked the smell. I recall buying matamis na bao on hot bread from street vendors at night, planting tomatoes and Talinum in Doña Lolita Cabarrus’ garden, talking to their parrot (pikoy) and stealing guavas from their huge tree beside the estero, which was also my favorite sailboat when Virgilio Lobregat and I went sailing the “bounding main” on its branches.
I loved “baha” weather. The Cabarrus “zaguan was below street level and became a swimming pool. Funny, no one told us the water was that dirty. But I remember my cousin Naty bathing me in alcohol afterwards.
I could go on and on. I imagine there are only a few of us left who share these innocent and happy times!
‘Like a cup of coffee’
We find all kinds of things on the Internet today. Some go straight to the garbage bin, but there are keepers. This is definitely one of them.
It is a gentle but precious reminder of what life is all about. My source says unknown author. Whoever you are, sir, madam, we thank you.
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups—porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive, some exquisite—telling them to help themselves to the coffee.
When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said:
“If you noticed, all the nice-looking, expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.
“Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups. And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.
“Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.
“Sometimes by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee. Savor the coffee, not the cups!”
The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything they have. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.