Tuesday, October 4, 2005

I Used to Believe In

It's raining. Again. The dark clouds herald late afternoon showers that slake the thirst of the parched earth. It's at this time that any sane person would rather roll around a soft, warm bed, and sigh how good life has been. It's perfect for reminiscing how the world made perfect sense when you were a such a tiny squirt. Your brain simply shuts out the urgency of the many requirements for school, your take on your probably highly dysfunctional family, the self-pitying attitude because your social life has suffered for so long, and the agitation due to the fact that human love is never perfect. You bring yourself back in time when everything seemed so simple, light, and worry-free. It's not that you can't leave the past behind, it's more of you're cherishing hazy memories that make you smile and cringe at the same time.

It was wonderful when you could play patintero, taguan, agawan base, piko, langit-lupa, and the myriad of other games that would seem so boring now that you're officially an adult. You never minded the sweat, the scrapes, the petty fights, and the lecture from the helper or the parents because you came home madungis and amoy araw. You never cared because you had the time of your life, your playmates were there (even if some of them didn't play fair), and because you could always look forward to another day of that. You believed the world was full of happy games and sweet things you could share with others. These games continued for the greater part of your childhood, even when you were at school. During summer, you would fake the afternoon nap, and rush out the house when the sun wasn't scorching anymore. Even the rain didn't stop your troop from finding substitutes for your sunny-day activities; you could always just dance to the cool sheets of water, fling mud at each other, or catch frogs to show to your horrified parents once they get home.

When the times came that you had to differentiate between good and bad, you played Langit-Lupa or variations of it. It was unfortunate to be the taya, because you were the "devil"; trying to tag a poor little human into freezing to his/her place before he/she could reach heaven. Of course, it was even more infuriating that there were "angels"; (unfrozen humans) who could
also tag their fellow frozen humans before you get them and manage to "SAVE!" all of them. And there were these make believe levels where you could also stay before reaching heaven... earth, water, sky...heaven. 

Other times, it was the Power Rangers (so now, you're guessing my age) that took on. You needed three guys and two girls to do the martial arts thing while transforming into the then highly awesome quintet of Red Ranger, Blue Ranger, Black Ranger, Pink Ranger, and Yellow Ranger. And you'd be calling out your dino-robots, "Mastodon! Saber-Tooth Tiger! Triceratops! Pterodactyl! Tyrannosaurus Rex!" so that they could morph into a humanoid robot that all five of you could control to defeat the monster that evil beings from the moon sent to earth. Always, two girls would fight over who would be the cute Pink Ranger, the only Power Ranger who had a miniskirt over her latex tights. And the Pink Ranger would dream of her crush becoming the evil Green Ranger that transforms into the White Ranger... and perhaps into the Gold Ranger? And then you needed to find playmates who could play the plasma head in the glass (the Power Rangers' boss) and the robot that always said "Ay-yay-yay-yay-yay!"

Or one could rush to the neighborhood playground, holding your own version of kiddie Olympics on the equipment. You would compete on who could swing the highest, pushing off the ground with much gusto, and feeling the rush of the wind while you barrel past each other's faces. You were introduced to elementary physics of the seesaw, figuring which playmate should take on which side so that the wooden beam stays balanced even when you all hit the ground screaming with delight. You save a part of the monkey bars as your own while trying to weave yourself in and out of the steel mesh in the fastest time possible to reach the top. You hurl yourself at the merry-go-round, making yourself spin until you were ready to barf at the grass. You would also race around the village on your bikes, trying to outrun the rabid dogs that would break loose from their chains once they see hordes of children having fun.

But enough games now. I don't think I'm going in a clear direction anymore.

It's better for me to look back on the times when I believed in Tooth Fairy, the magical woman who would reward every baby tooth you lost. I was envisioning her to be a very beautiful ethereal being very similar to the Blue Fairy from AI or Pinocchio. I was so happy to visit my dentist then because by some reason, my baby teeth wouldn't fall out even if my adult teeth were already there. For me not to see how frighteningly large the syringe was, she made up this whole story about Tooth Fairy who rewarded all the little kids who lost their teeth, due to natural causes or through artificial means. This Tooth Fairy thing continued, and I was happy most of the time because if it weren't ice cream or stationery supplies, it was baby toiletries that I got. I dutifully waited for my milk teeth to fall out until one day, when I noticed that the cute tube of powder I received contained a message with a handwriting very similar to that of my mom's. Things went so quickly inside my brain that my mom could not even think of an excuse to explain such. That was the end of my beautiful tooth fairy days, but up to this day, my mom is kind enough to buy me vanilla yogurt every time I need to have tooth surgery done for my braces.

And what kid does not believe in Santa Claus? He was the rotund, jolly, Caucasian man with twinkling eyes and a great liking to milk and cookies who would drop by on Christmas Eve with presents for good boys and good girls. Children with fervent hopes of a new bicycle, a new truck, a new doll, etc would try to behave themselves during the Christmas season in anticipation of St. Nicholas' reward (and much to the relief of the frazzled parents rushing during the holidays). Americanized as any kid would be, I always put up my linen sock-shaped "stocking" to be filled up by Santa during the night when I could not understand why we ate ham, queso de bola, pudding, and various sweetmeats while drinking hot chocolate. The only part I understood was that it was Christmas, people were nice to each other, there was a Christmas tree (plastic or otherwise) festooned with glittering balls, angels, strings of light, and a star or an angel on top, Christmas lights were blinking and frantically playing its preprogrammed song with blinks, the adults seemingly wanted to fill up my piggy bank, and people exchanged gifts. I would always wake up to a bulging stocking and find a surprise in there on Christmas day when it was dastardly to wake up to screams of "Merrri Krismas po! Hapi Nyu
Yeer!" from the less fortunate, the garbage collectors, the traffic enforcers, the village security, the mailman, the bills collectors, etc. I would not always get what I wanted but I figured, maybe Santa was really so busy and hectic, so I was just thankful he remembered. (Besides, I wasn't always on my best behavior.) 

It just so happened that even as a child, I was a light sleeper, and I easily woke up to the even the wind, the rustling of the grass in the garden, or my ticking clock. One Christmas night, while my parents were at their usual Santa Claus operation code named "Open the Window Screen and Drop the Gift," I stirred. My parents tried to lessen their noise to subsonic levels but to no avail. I woke up, and the grouch that I am, sort of growled at the intruders; my dad shot out of sight down the window and my mom ran out of my room. With this epiphany, I realized my childhood was over, and for the next Christmases, I spent my holidays helping wrap gifts, saving my allowance to buy gifts for others when my parents ran short, and making sure other children still believed in Santa.

I might have forgotten to be completely like a child already, or that my mind, saturated with too much science, might not accept the fictitional characters anymore. But I still am a child at heart. I still love chocolate milk, even if it has to be in the soy variant because my adult tummy has lost all it lactase. I can bury my face in the twenty-peso cloud of cotton candy and shoot to the moon with joy. I can finish off a bag of hot pan de sal every morning with the requisite kesong puti and Batangas tsokolate. I still love blowing bubbles when my heart is inconsolable. I laugh easily, kahit sobrang babaw lang talaga.

I grow into a new person seeking the fullness of life and at the same time, trying to rediscover the joys in the simple things around me through child-like eyes. It always hits me, this fact, that my happiness lies not in the material things I gain, but in the fleeting moments I have managed to remember and shall continue to cherish to eternity. I may not be the next Paris Hilton who can easily reject a heavy diamond engagement ring because the gem was yellow, but I remain happy in the realization that my life is so rich in all the wonderful things. I used to believe in happiness in simple things and the many trivialities of my childhood, and I'm amused to see that I still believe in the frugal joys of life.

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