mealtimes. the most important bonding moments of our family. (or is that typical of all filipino families?). we cannot be excused from sharing the family meal. not homework. not tv. not phone conversation. only sickness. even that has to be of a certain severity.
of course, weekday breakfasts and lunch can be irregular. but never dinner, not after school. kakain na! my mother would holler. sometimes we would grumble about what is being served. hay naku. kakainin kung ano ang nakahain. pasalamat kayo may nakakain pa kayo. pag gyera, wala ka ng makain.. (eat what is being served. be thankful you still have food on the table. during war, you dont have any.). but i was never a picky eater. i eat everything.
in between the 'please pass the ketchup' and 'get more vegetables, that's good for you.' there will be conversation. mealtime is when we all get updated on school, grades, friends and relatives, gossip. teenagers may hesitate sharing as much. so i get uncomfortable. especially when i was still in the closet. and i couldnt share the thrill of getting (and giving) my first blowjob.
mealtime stories. when my 7yr old brother, who was already feeling really bad, still sat on the dining table. and as his serving of freshly baked macaroni was set before him, he barfs all over it. (and second serving of bechamel sauce, perhaps? ewww) or when my other sister just started crying, then sobbing uncontrollably as we were having dessert. out of nowhere.
mealtimes now have less participants. all my siblings are abroad. so its just me and my folks. (though i do have a niece staying with us as she studies) but i treasure mealtimes no less. i try as much as i can to be with them for dinner. and weekend lunches. even when i was living apart, in the condo.
we still do the life updates. i ask if there are news from the siblings abroad. or who else from their friends and acquaintances have this illness or that malady. or worse, have passed away.
but inevitably, we turn to talking about the past. from immediate past to growing up past, to ancestors past. it is fascinating to learn about stories of lolo and lola, of great grandfather or uncle or tito. there are courtship stories and romance. there is the family scandal. the illegitimates. the bribery. i love it.
but where we really spend a lot of time on is the growing up past. i am so intrigued by their first hand stories of us growing up, hearing what their thoughts were, motivations during the tender years. i would remember bits and pieces, but they supplied the details and the big picture.
a part of me is telling me, im feeling soooo old. our discussions are all about the past! but i cannot deny the sheer fun of putting the past together. and of course, the closeness i get to feel with them every moment spent strolling down memory lane.
im missing them now, as i spend many nights away from them for this trip.
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