A young woman recently asked me why I write. And as simple an answer as that should require, I had to think about it and ask myself. Why indeed?
Some sing. Others dance. Still others explore the universe, heal people or compose music. Yet, the answer is not difficult. Because if someone asks me why I breathe, the reply would be the same: to live.
I think I knew that even as a child. I wrote when the spirit moved me, and that was very often. In whatever circumstance I found myself, I took pen to paper. Happy, sad, euphoric or depressed, I had to write about it. It was my way to celebrate, or escape.
I look back and I can’t think of a time when I was not writing something. I first started expressing my emotions and sharing thoughts by dreaming up poems. I thought prose was boring. There was no rhythm or rhyme and to me, it sounded dull, too much like a textbook.
I loved poetry. I was excited to look for words that rhymed. I thought there was magic in words that sounded alike. It excited me to find them. Later I enjoyed discovering the lilt and lyric of words and phrases. It was almost like writing music.
I think that my original desire was to set words to music. I had learned all about notes and harmony, but writing music was the dark side of the moon for me. I was in awe of the geniuses who could. I dreamed that someday my “byline” would appear under “words and music” in a hit song.
It has not happened. Not yet. Who knows?
I remember that I wrote better stuff when I was down in the dumps. I wrote mostly for myself. Even in my preteen years, sad and lonely for me meant inspired and eloquent.
If I was in a tearful mood, I looked for an out-of-the-way, quiet place where I could hide and no one would intrude. As a little girl, it was sometimes on top of my favorite guava tree. But it was a problem to bring pen and paper up there.
Then I found my spot in my parents’ closet. All I had for company there were the clothes on hangers all around me in this secret sanctuary, muffling every sound that I couldn’t stifle.
I hid behind Papa’s pants and coats and Mama’s dresses, and sat among their shoe boxes. There were pillows and blankets on the top shelf, and I could smell the musky aroma of old cologne and tobacco, mixed with the pungent fumes of naphthalene balls that kept the bugs away. It was hot and stuffy in there. And dark.
But in my little corner, there was a flickering flashlight, two pencils, an eraser, my notebook and me. Oh yes, and a bag of chocolate Kisses.
I spent long hours in my secret place. No one ever saw me enter the closet or come out. I made sure of that. Did anyone ever wonder where I was?
I suddenly think of the child who played hide-and-seek with her friends and nobody looked for her. She was in the game, but not really. Is this what it means to be salimpusa? I can’t imagine a sadder situation for any child. Or for anyone. Maybe that’s why taguan was never my favorite game.
But I was a happy child, in spite of my moments of melancholy. I grew up in a home that was full of family, of music and laughter, even during bad times.
I wonder what became of all my scribblings. One of my poems was published in the school yearbook. I was in the second grade. I don’t know what happened to the rest of them. There were several notebooks.
I remember, during the Japanese occupation, Mama discovered one of them which was a collection of letters to myself where I poured my heart out about the war, my fears and how my naughty cousins loved to tease me. She was upset and scolded the culprits, telling them they had made me suffer. They apologized.
Oh, how important and vindicated I felt that afternoon. I smile today at the scenes of high drama I once played.
Of course, the cousins didn’t back off. They were relentless, but it was all in fun. And I loved them anyway. They were the best.
Nothing comes close to the joy of being with cousins. And when I see my children and grandchildren enjoying theirs, it warms my heart.
Today we are only seven cousins left from the original batch of 21: two in Canada, two in the United States, another two in Australia and one in Manila. Our reunions are rare. Travel is difficult. We are at a “high maintenance” age. Thank God for FaceTime.
Author and biographer Marion Garretty once wrote: “A cousin is a little bit of our childhood that can never be lost.”
It is December
And as I write this, I mark the calendar with my agenda for the new month. It is the homestretch of a long US vacation. Do I have time for Christmas shopping? Who all are coming to our “all-holidays dinner”? So much to do.
But today is the first of December, and we are in Tifton, Georgia, for “the” wedding. The weather forecast is not pretty. Rain.
But for the bride and groom, the stars will come out in all their splendor and shine brighter than on any other night, because such is the way of love.
I’ll tell you all about it next week.