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Posts Tagged ‘New Bedford’

Tonight we took a walk down Maple Street after dinner. The sky was clear, the first stars out, and the sky was that deep purple blue made famous by Maxfield Parrish. We walked past all the homes, lit from within, past gas lamps and flowers that have been a part of our walk all these years.

Last week we were at our son’s confirmation at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River. The bombing at the Boston Marathon shattered a Monday. When the final firefight and capture occurred on Friday night, our hometown and our children’s university, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, were both in the mayhem.

The university with all its memories of graduations and accomplishments, all the friends who have come to our home, all the wonderful stuff of life is now forever associated with Suspect #2.

Talking to people in our world we find strings to the slain policeman, my friend whose husband works at MIT knew him. The Suspect played soccer with kids who have come to our home. He played soccer with the check out guy at our supermarket. Another friend’s son knew him.

Everyone we know has a story that connects them to the tragedy. Our neighbor left the finish line twelve minutes before the first bomb went off. Another friend taught at the school where little Martin went.

For me, Boston is the place where my best new life began. I had my first baby at Brigham and Women’s, we lived in a sweet Cambridge apartment, and I lived an enchanted existence where books and learning and ideas were the stuff of everyday life.

I fell in love with New England long ago, through the books of Louisa May Alcott and the architecture of the city I loved most of all, Baguio in the Philippines. The works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, particularly the essay on Self-Reliance were favorites of my father.

So today, after sleeping until noon, I wondered what the surprise of the day would be. We did all sorts of Sunday afternoon things, we took the dog for a walk, went to buy something to repair the screen door, all ordinary things that seemed precious because of their ordinariness.

At mass tonight, the priest spoke beautifully. The Prayers of the Faithful covered our community and particularly the university. I suddenly felt that everything is suddenly local. We are now in a world where we are all connected. A bad thing that happens, happens to all of us. We cannot afford cruelty.

Then I thought about how brave the people of Boston were this week. They were the embodiment of all that is good in New England -they are sensible, practical, and generous. I felt very grateful to call this region my home, the land of my children’s ancestors, a good place to be from. Then I thought how vulnerable we are.

After communion the teenage choir with their guitars, bass and drums surprised me. They sang “Abide With Me” ┬áso beautifully. A girl’s voice, so pure and sweet carried the tune. I went on YouTube and grabbed a link to the song so you can see the lyrics.

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I could have grown up into a depressed cynic, who lost the happiness lotto because of life experience and baggage. But, deep down in me always lived the soul of a happy child and an almost boring stability. I was not particularly brave or articulate as a child, but a child nonetheless, like all the multitudinous hordes of children in the world today. As a former child, I remember what it felt like, and lucky for me, my personal stars aligned in such a way as to break the bonds of generations of sadness, and here I am, about to be 53. As Oprah says, “This I know for sure…” This I know for sure, the best things we are told are true, and only love lasts.

If you are randomly stumbling upon this blog you might want to know some of the back story. I grew up in the Philippines. Far from being half this and half that, I am 200%, Filipino to my cells, and American to my cells too. Some things I love like a Filipino, my family for instance. Don’t tell me that political dynasties or benevolent dictatorship is the only solution for my troubled heart-home. Something in me that endured an Atlantic voyage to a wild, untamed land balks at that. We can change our future. It’s un-American to think otherwise.

Which brings me, dear blog readers, to touch on a shadow in my childhood. My dear Daddy, God rest his soul, was afflicted with bipolar disorder before there was a term for it, before there was medicine. Certain things could trigger an episode, like Christmas.

Naturally, my siblings are split between memories of beautiful Christmases, and memories of sad Christmases. Christmas is a loaded time. I have found that the road of acceptance and open-heartedness is my path to a beautiful Christmas.

One time a medical intuitive who has a radio show told me that I have tried to recreate my own childhood positively. That is true. I wanted the big family, all the kids around the table. I married the most stable of men, but not before marrying one who killed himself.

Awareness is all. We don’t want to repeat what we don’t have to.

That’s enough about sad things. I always want to remember how happy my parents were when Daddy was stable. Nowadays, there is medicine, therapy, and many interventions that can give a bipolar person a long and happy life. The latest brain research shows that rumination, the reliving of sad events, messes up the brains’ frontal lobes. As my positive psychology class taught me, gratitude, faith, goals, and positive experiences are the upward spiral that counteracts the down-the-drain of negativity.

When I was little, just ten, we had a magical Christmas at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Mama decorated the house with gilded red ribbon, a parol, poinsettias, a great Christmas tree, the Belen (Nativity Scene), stockings. We all had new red flannel nightgowns sewed by our live in seamstress. We went to midnight mass at the base chapel, and home to Noche Buena (the Philippine reveillion), and opened our presents.

I remember the music, the feeling of contentment and security, how we all were together. I remember how the next morning, the hot Pampanga sun baked the flowers outside and how the arch of the acacia trees shaded our house.

That year, on Christmas Day, we piled into the car with all the kids and a yaya (nanny) and went to Manila to visit Lola at Lourdes Hospital. I won’t forget that either. Lola, with her hair down, smiling sweetly from her bed. Lolo, sitting on the bed by the window. I remember Uncle Sonny coming in with Auntie Lou. Uncle Buddy and Auntie Lynne and my sweet little cousins.

Auntie Lynne’s parents lived near the hospital on Kanlaon Street. Their house was all wood paneled and dark with rooms and corners that were a place of endless fascination for me.

A few days later, my Lola Mercy died. She had been sick for about a year, and her death was unexpected. The whole world shifted when she died. It was my first encounter with death.

Two more Christmases followed that, one raucous in Albuquerque where my cousin D. came with her parents from California. She was an only child and all her presents came with her. She shared, though, as she always did- as she shares to this day.

The second Christmas was in Hawaii, and Daddy was hospitalized at Tripler Army Hospital. That Christmas Day was bright like the Pampanga Christmas, but oh so lonely. I couldn’t wait to return to the Philippines.

In that time of waiting for my uncles to raise our airfare back, one thought gave me courage. We were going to live in the old house in Baguio, Casa Blanca. In our Hawaiian kitchen there was a box of Lipton tea, with a picture of a tea cup and a hillside. It looked to me like Baguio. I would imagine sitting in the old dining room, looking out over Mt. Santo Tomas, and conjure the safety and security of that faraway place.

I recently looked on the net and saw that our old house in Kailua is a luxury home now. I hope the successive owners were happy in that house, with it’s indoor fish pond and beautiful garden. It was not meant to be for us. I remember a sunny kitchen and how even in Hawaii, the streets outside were quiet like the rest of America that I experienced. I missed the street noise and lively parade of people who colored our life in the Philippines.

The next Christmas, 1969, was spent back at Cresta Ola, my grandparents’ beach resort in La Union. It was a happy place and through these years via the Internet, I have heard from many former children who spent holidays there with their families. That Christmas was our first there since Lola died. I could tell the difference, but still it was jolly.

Lolo handed out presents to the staff, and I remember their glee at the gifts. When they went forward to claim them, it looked like a scene from a story about a good king, beloved by his people. Lolo sat in his arm chair, and the staff- waiters, maids, grounds people stepped forward with a kind of a bowing posture and gave heartfelt thanks. While watching it, I was thinking of how hard my own heart was, at 12, there were many things I wanted, but could not have. I noted how these humble people were so grateful and determined to grasp that elusive quality they had in abundance.

A few days later, Lolo died of a heart attack and the lights went out in our big family again.

The next year we found ourselves in Baguio. If you don’t know where Baguio is, let me tell you. It was a beautiful city built during the American era in the Philippines. It’s in a pine forest called a cloud forest by botanists. On some of the twisting roads you might think you were in New England, because so many of the places were painted white with green shutters. In that place, the air is pine scented. You could sleep under many blankets with open windows and breathe the beautiful air all night long. At sunset, the geographic location and the closeness to the ocean blended the air and sky for a spectacular show.

In my Baguio, there was a green-gold light as it turned from dusk to evening. The twilights were lavender, violet, purple. The sky was as colorful as the Aurora Borealis, with the tropical clouds colored orange and red. I have read that other cities in cloud forests, at similar latitude and longitude and proximity to water have the same phenomenon.

Christmas in Baguio was Filipino with a touch of Frank Capra. The old timers in Baguio, the older folks who set the city up, were largely still there. Their grandchildren were my friends. We owned the city with an affectionate hold, feeling far luckier than the Manila folks who only knew it for Holy Week, the summer break and the dash between Christmas and New Year.

In Baguio, the firewood was a local pine, sappy and resinous and aromatic as incense. This was the smell you inhaled with great breaths, if you took a walk on a cold night.

There was caroling. Finally in high school, we filled cars driven by big brothers and made our caroling calls on family and friends. All girls, singing away with hoarse voices, we wouldn’t stop and we were fed at each stop. Who could say no when we were greeted with tables laden with special treats? I am sure that today, the sound of “Give Love on Christmas Day” brings mist to the eyes of my classmates who are mostly away from Baguio now. Such is life in the diaspora.

No matter how difficult it was for me when my Daddy had an episode, there was the surrounding bounty of the city, my friends, relatives, and general nurturing culture of the Philippines. To make things better, my relatives had an attitude of making things happy for children at Christmas. Auntie Mary Anne comes to mind. There was no family time spent in talking about the upheavals. There was lots of family time spent in support of my mother, and attention to the festivities of Christmas.

So, during those difficult times, I simply turned a switch, and if things were too noisy at home, I simply escaped into my richly colored outside world. Unlike in America where people can retreat into madness and silence, the show goes on unabashed in the Philippines. The phone kept ringing with friends planning outings, the doorbell kept ringing with friends passing by, the relatives kept their Christmas visitation schedule. Life went on, in spite of the cross we carried.

Looking at this practically, given that there was no awareness of this illness, there was nothing we children or my mother could do, except surf with it and not judge it in the long run.

We all grew up and moved back to the United States, for a spell there were trips to California at Christmastime. We moved to California. Then, one year, Daddy died leaving a hole in our extended family.

Today, my older sister and cousin are the junior matriarchs in their region. They have a tribe, and the season is kept with light, color and food. There is a lot of togetherness, and distant folks are welcome to fly in. They keep the feast and have given their children an unbroken stretch of years colored by stability, bounty and family.

Our Christmases here in Massachusetts are happy ones. Always, there are the six children and their pets and their friends. There is music and food. No matter what twinges of memory there may be, I remember that I loved my Daddy dearly, and all that is best in my family culture, I owe to him.

Because of his illness, he was larger than life. He loved my children intensely, and that deep attachment shows in how they have taken pieces of him for their permanent selves. At my bravest I am my father’s daughter. At my most optimistic, I am his student of positive thinking. At my most stubborn, I am the one who will not compromise on that-which-cannot-be-bent. When he was dying, I spent so much time with him and made peace with all the past.

Two nights ago I dreamed of my sister, Lizzie who died in 2000. I miss her so much, not only because she was delightful, but because she was stalwart, faithful and true.

Last night, I was going through boxes in the basement and found stash of letters she wrote to me from Oxford. She wrote me every week, and I daresay I was the only one of our siblings she wrote that often, because at the time I was widowed and she was watching over me from afar. Her letters are funny, and full of her ganas. After she died, I sought to fill her void with my other sisters. They are so different from Lizzie that it is impossible. I love them but Lizzie and I spent years together with a shared vision.

I continue this road without her, grateful for the time we had together, and secure in the faith that she watches over us all.

In my dream, she was carrying her youngest child and looked so happy. She looked as she was in real life when she carried that baby. One of the treasures of this internet era is that I am in touch with her friends who share memories of her that are in perfect synchrony with mine. She made friends wherever she went, and was beloved by people. I daresay that if someone had a problem with Lizzie, there was something wrong with that person.

So this is how it is, at this age dear blog readers. All my Christmases are rolled into a giant ball of life. It is more jewels than coal. But for as long as I can remember, Christmas is the stretch from my birthday to December 25th. It’s an ongoing feast of memory and nostalgia, and missing and relishing. It is full of my babies, who tower over me, and their memories of Bud and me, and all our pets and this old house.

I still miss Baguio come Christmastime, but pine firewood is for sale in New Bedford, and we are really lucky we’ll have some snow during the season. God’s birthday is celebrated all over the world, and from where I type, grateful for my family and friends, that is a good thing.

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moonstarsThe flu is back in our house, and I am making sure that it leaves for good. A sense of humor is always good at times like this, so we remember the now comical-to-relay episodes of the baby years when illness took our family down for almost a month at a time. As seasoned parents, we know the drill, the vaporizers, the Lysol, the bleach and the NyQuil, the softest tissues, the soup and the cozy bedrooms. There is a fire in the fireplace, extra trips to the health food store and pharmacy. There is a general reeling in from all the outside activities. Every evening reunion from the outside world to the home world brings questions of “How do you feel? Are you alright?” Everyone tries to get all the sleep they can.

This particular episode coincides with the most beautiful moon of the year. It is too cold to walk under it, and too busy in this infirmary to do anything but look at it in the coming and going of every day.

It hangs in the sky, like a great witness to all our life. I think of the moon in all the places I have seen it, and all the friends who I have admired it with. I remember its silver light on the mountains I grew up in, and the silver path across the China Sea. I remember seeing it hanging like an orb on a summer night in New York City in the early 1980’s and, being so removed from nature that I thought it was a new streetlight.

I remember a night in Cambridge when my big kids were howling babies. Nothing would stop them and we took them downstairs and into the garden where a huge moon was rising. Dumbfounded with beauty, the babies stopped screaming and sat on our elbows with the moonlight illuminating their round cheeks.

Tonight, when everyone is quiet and asleep I will pull the curtains apart and let the moonlight flood my room. From my pillow I will watch it dance off of the golden leaves outside. If the moon could see our house, with all its slumbering folk, it would smile. Here lives a family with many children and many pets. Here lives a man and his beloved wife. Here we live, all together. All is well.

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malasadasSummer in our corner of New England is beautiful. Sunny temperate days, festivals, book and rummage sales, gorgeous scenery.

Look a this is a special treat that I cannot eat, but it is so good. It’s Malasadas, a Portuguese treat. Fried dough tossed in sugar. We used to have them when we lived in Hawaii in the past life. Interesting isn’t it that the cultural threads I found in Hawaii, that of the ocean bound Yankee and seafaring Portuguese, define this city of New Bedford. I believe anything can happen, because it has.

It’s possible to have a day trip to see our daughter and come back with her, laughing and singing in the car. It’s possible to walk into the house and find a box of books from a dear friend in Virginia.

It is completely possible to be on the way to a book sale and find a Quaker rummage sale near an old ancestral stomping ground. Past fields and stone walls bordered with tiger lilies, past bales of new hay and little farms, on such a trip it is completely possible to find a treasure.
sideboard1

Twenty-five dollars and we have the perfect piece of furniture for our busy dining room
sideboard

Then off to the book sale and oh the delight of books! The ghost of Marcos and his book miserly era is vanished in this country where books abound and book sales astonish with their bounty. I found everything I wanted and more.

books

What a lovely day. And as the evening fell, the long shadows fell across the Reed Estate across the street. The house was full of music, and the kids were singing, and dinner was stupendous. All of us around the table, and me, with a heart full of thanks.
lastshot

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malasadasSummer in our corner of New England is beautiful. Sunny temperate days, festivals, book and rummage sales, gorgeous scenery.

Look a this is a special treat that I cannot eat, but it is so good. It’s Malasadas, a Portuguese treat. Fried dough tossed in sugar. We used to have them when we lived in Hawaii in the past life. Interesting isn’t it that the cultural threads I found in Hawaii, that of the ocean bound Yankee and seafaring Portuguese, define this city of New Bedford. I believe anything can happen, because it has.

It’s possible to have a day trip to see our daughter and come back with her, laughing and singing in the car. It’s possible to walk into the house and find a box of books from a dear friend in Virginia.

It is completely possible to be on the way to a book sale and find a Quaker rummage sale near an old ancestral stomping ground. Past fields and stone walls bordered with tiger lilies, past bales of new hay and little farms, on such a trip it is completely possible to find a treasure.
sideboard1

Twenty-five dollars and we have the perfect piece of furniture for our busy dining room
sideboard

Then off to the book sale and oh the delight of books! The ghost of Marcos and his book miserly era is vanished in this country where books abound and book sales astonish with their bounty. I found everything I wanted and more.

books

What a lovely day. And as the evening fell, the long shadows fell across the Reed Estate across the street. The house was full of music, and the kids were singing, and dinner was stupendous. All of us around the table, and me, with a heart full of thanks.
lastshot

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