Me, Mike and Manny circa 1966

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dalaga Na Ako (Writing Our Way Home I)

for preteen Evelina

Dalaga na si Evelina.  Dalaga na ako.  Back in those days when my hormones were just beginning to move about this body, grow these legs that long, shape these hips out, draw that waist in, fill up you know where, I was quiet and moody.   I had feelings.  I was in a house where the boys were loud.  My dad played all kinds of piano by ear and his voice filled our home with stories.  My mother ran a household of eight. The little ones, smaller than the loud boys ran from room to room, doing their thing.  I babysat a lot. During the day I followed my youngest brother about the house to make sure he wasn’t into anything.  At night I bathed him and powdered him and wrapped him up in diapers and footy pajamas. In the quiet moments, I read.  I was not the wild American girl of my day dreams.  I was not the girl boys wanted.  Those girls had blonde hair and blue eyes and their skin was fair.  I was not that girl.   

I found ways to express myself.  I played piano in the dark. Classical music.  And I am not sure if I swayed with the music because its what I felt or if I thought the drama of rocking back and forth, hair falling into my eyes, shoulders sliding down close to the keyboard, was romantic. 

I had notebooks I scribbled in late at night.  I wish I had those notebooks now.  I tried to hide them from my brothers who would find them and quote from them, sing from them, embarrass me about the latest crush I had.  When the rest of the house was quiet, when the last diaper had been changed and all that I could hear was the faint sound of late night television coming from my parents’ bedroom, I’d sit at my little white desk, bent over a nightlight and I’d scribble my heart out.

In my notebooks, I was beautiful. I did not babysit, change diapers or cook rice for the family dinner.  I wrote stories.  I imagined I was Jo from Little Women.  I dreamed of writing books and publishing them.  I found ways to ground me to the earth, to feel comfortable in my skin, to meditate on life and God and everything I knew I was to become.  I’d write until the only sounds were crickets from the backyard, until moonlight filled the bedroom, until I found my way home.

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