It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…exactly a month to go before Christmas Eve. I admit I have never really been a Christmas person. I find Christmases all too commercialized and the holiday rush just seems so, so superficial. My husband is my exact opposite. He plays Christmas songs on the month of September because, he says, it’s already a -ber month, and he gets a certain kind of high seeing all the Christmas decors and lights in the malls. I think Zoe takes after her dad because as early as October, she would watch The Day Elmo Saved Christmas everyday. “Mommy, atch Elmo, atch anta” [Mommy, watch Elmo, Watch Santa], is what she would say, over and over again, until I give in and let her. She loves the part where Santa Claus gets stuck in the chimney and Elmo pulls Santa. Zoe knows that scene by heart and she would act it out to us, huffing and straining, as if she was the one pulling a heavy Santa down the chimney. She has come to love this big, bearded fellow in the red suit, so much in fact that she carries what’s left of a Santa toy she got from last Christmas. The toy is a wind-up Santa doll that plays the drum, but the drum has disappeared, and Santa’s boots and legs are nowhere to be found. But Zoe doesn’t mind at all, she would cuddle it and kiss it, and put a blanket over it, never mind if it looked more like a toy from a freak show next to Chuckie.
I’ve come to realize that Santa Claus has invaded my child’s mind too much when, this morning, Zoe had a little argument with her dad:
Zoe: Wow, kismas tee (marveling at the unassembled tree in a dusty box)!
Dad: Yes, Christmas is near. We’ll celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
Zoe: (looks at her dad and corrects him) Santa.
Dad: No, it’s the birthday of Jesus.
Zoe: (looks her dad in the eye, goes closer, not so sure but trying to sound more convincing) San-ta!
First the purple dinosaur, then the little red monster from Sesame Street, and now Santa! I admit I have also fallen for this guy in the red suit. For years I have written him letters and letters, telling him what a good girl I’ve been and, at the end of my letter, as if the idea just popped out of my head, I would ask him for a gift. I would also receive letters from Santa, letters that would praise me for being good and instructions to be kind and caring to my siblings and loving to my parents. Holding the letter in my hand was a magical moment for me. I bought the whole Santa story until I was, I think, 10. The truth wasn’t confessed to me in a dramatical sort of way. I kinda knew anyway that my parents were playing Santa but I just couldn’t catch them red-handed. It came on a day quite far from Christmas, it was a lazy morning and we kids were eager to buy our taho from our suki. My mom asked me to get a few bills from her wallet. After getting the bills, I fumbled in my mom’s wallet some more. This I enjoy doing a lot, marvelling at the many divisions of her wallet, looking at the pictures, the notes, and the calling cards. Then, I felt something in one of the pockets that felt so, so strange, like it was not supposed to be there. Lo and behold, I saw a tooth! My tooth, to be exact! One of the many teeth I left under my pillow for the tooth fairy to get and replace with a five-peso bill! It finally got to me that my mom has been playing tooth fairy all these years I’ve been falling teeth, and the truth suddenly hit me that if she was the tooth fairy, then Santa wasn’t far behind. And so I asked my mom calmly. I asked her first if she was the tooth fairy. At first I could see she was squirming, wasn’t sure if she’d give an alibi, but I showed her the tooth I pulled out of her wallet and that was evidence enough. And so I prodded her a little more and asked her for the truth and nothing but. Was she Santa Claus? All my mom could do was nod a yes and warned me sternly not to give her away to my siblings because it will spoil their Christmas. That was the day I grew an inch taller. I felt more adult than ever, pledging allegiance to a secret unknown to kids all over the world.
Now that I’m a mom, it’s my turn to play Santa, together with my husband. The whole Christmas story will have to wait a few more years. I’m starting to tell Zoe about it…how Christmas all began, and I know she’ll find a deeper meaning into the holidays in the years to come. For now I’ll let her have her fill of Santa Claus and the reindeers, and Santa’s gifts under the tree and in the stockings, and, of course, the tooth fairy. And I’ll make sure her tooth doesn’t stay in my wallet…I’m gonna flush it down the toilet!
I can’t exactly remember when Zoe started talking, although I do recall that she started with the word “Mom” and she would holler that word to me whenever she demands my instant 100% attention. The word “dad” followed a little later and she would holler that word just the same when she demands her dad’s 100% attention. She also made up funny words for “dog” and “horse”. When I first asked her to say “dog”, Zoe went on a coughing fit. I was alarmed, scared s**t that my daughter, who rarely as in rarely, gets sick, has started coughing. But then I realized that her coughing started when I asked her to say “dog”. And when I asked her a second and a third time, I got the same coughing response. So, for a long time, dog for us was “ugghuuh ugghuh”. It was almost the same with her “horse” but this time she kind of acted out the horseback riding part, saying “ya”. This she did while she giddy yapped on my tummy or her dad’s tummy with delight. In no time Zoe was muttering two-syllable words and then three. She surprises us with words we never expected her to know–words we would mention while on a conversation with her and hearing her use that word whenever it applies. Many times I would try my best to decipher what she was saying. Straining my ears, I would ask her to repeat what she just said, and I would say it out loud, waiting for her confirmation. It would go like this:
Me: “Oh, car”
Me: “Bar?” (Upon further guessing I found out she meant “card”)
At this point she would give up, exasperated, wondering why I couldn’t understand such a simple word. Sometimes she would be on the verge of tears and would lie on the bed not wanting to talk to me at all. Other times she would simply spank any hard surface she could get her hands on, as if to say, “If you guess the wrong word again I’m gonna give you a timeout.” The word game could get so frustrating to me, too, because I wonder if I’m the only mom in this planet who doesn’t understand my daughter’s words. It doesn’t help that my mother tells me that she understood EVERY word that came out of my mouth when I was young, no matter how foreign-sounding it was.
And so I practice being an interpreter, listening to and decoding every word she says, even when she prefers to have a conversation with herself and no one else. Sometimes I unearth some words which might have come from my imagination. During one of her monologues, I swear I heard her say “cheeseburger” and another time I was almost sure she said “happy thoughts.” I’m getting the hang of it!
One evening she was about to step into the study room, with an attempt to interrupt me as I spent some time on the computer. But then she paused upon seeing a dead adolescent cockroach on the floor. I say adolescent because it is not the adult full-blown cockroach that freaks me out more, the one that has the ability to crawl up the walls and suddenly fly and the one that sends shivers down my spine as I write about it. Zoe scrambled to the hallway, ran while taking sideway glances to where the dead cockroach was, making sure that it does not rise from the dead and follow her. Her dad, who was watching television, saw the frazzled look on Zoe’s face and assumed Zoe must have been up to something naughty, haha. I watched the whole scene in amusement and was bursting with laughter. Just the sight of my daughter scared to her wits and her rush to escape amused me. Does that make me a bad mom? I thought that was the end of it when suddenly, I heard her conversation with her dad, “Daddy, boom, daddy boom.” She was actually telling her dad to get the broom, and because it took some time for her dad to register what Zoe was saying, Zoe got the broom herself and held her dad’s hand to lead him to the study. That’s when she instructed her dad to sweep the cockroach. “Daddy, boom, dudooch [cockroach].” To this day she tells us about it, “Dudooch” then makes an “aack” sound and pretends to be a dead bug with arms folded at the elbow and wrists. She then tells you how she “an” [ran] and got the “boom.” Her narration of the dead dudooch is hilarious.
One word we look forward to hear every single day is “havoo” which means “love you”. She says it a lot, well, a little less than we hear her say “dede” and “no, no, no,” but she says it just the same. I play her “havoo” in my head and just melt everytime she says it, even if I wonder if she really undertands what love is.
Last night she surprised Suerte and I with “sumting owee,” pointing to my bag. She was looking for a “something for Zoe” when we arrived from work. It took me by surprise because we do not regularly bring home a something for her. We kinda make a conscious effort not to make her get used to receiving everyday somethings, and yet here she was, asking for something. I tried to give an explanation of some sorts, which I hope is good for now, and cheerfully told her that her something for tonight is having her mom and dad home, and I stretched out my arms to her as a present. That didn’t work though. So I put out a half-eaten, day-old cheese bread from my bag and gave it to her. She took a teeny weeny bite, probably sensed it wasn’t new and it was another thing disguising as something, and decided to just forget about the whole thing. In a few seconds, her attention drifted somewhere else, to my breasts to be exact, and she demanded for “dede,” and so we snuggled, my daughter and I, and I listened to her heart, without words, in silence.
I have always believed I was destined for motherhood. As a young girl, it was but natural for me to play bahay-bahayan, and my being the eldest sibling made me nurture my mothering skills all the more. In short, I would boss my siblings around effortlessly. In my early teens, my parents went to the States for a 2-month vacation and I was left to play mom. I remember that it was some sort of immersion for me, for the real thing. I was left to budget the money (money that I didn’t earn), feed my siblings (we had a maid to help me), and do the errands mothers were supposed to do. It was challenging for a 14-year-old but my mother trusted in me enough to make me handle everything. For almost a week, we ate spaghetti and then baked spaghetti. And when we got tired of it, we had fried danggit/espada. I could not remember the weeks that passed but I think our maid took control of the menu planning to feed us, uhm, proper food. I also did the groceries and remembered how very much I enjoyed it. Up to this day I enjoy going to the supermarket, looking at aisles and aisles of dry goods, checking out the new stuff, comparing prices, discovering bargains. It has been some sort of refuge for me, as if I am transported to a world of my own, where I escape from the stress of everyday life and enjoy being with myself for a moment. Like some sort of spa, I suppose. I learned a lot from my 2-month mommy experience and I thought that when the time comes that I would be a real mom, I would take it all in stride. I couldn’t wait for that time. Next to getting married, motherhood has been one of my biggest dreams.
That has been my belief 2 years ago, but now, I’m not so sure I am doing things right. I remember my mother, who almost single-handedly took care of three stubborn kids with different personalities, as my dad had to make a living away from home for years, and I wonder how she managed everything. Here I am, a mother of a 2-year-old, and I can’t seem to get my act together. It seems that motherhood has taken up ALL of my time. Even the glorious time I used to spend in the shower is now gone and I’m left with bath time that’s meant for cadets in a military academy. I’m a few pages into a good book and I’m interrupted by a little tyrant, asking to hold my hand and leading me to take a peek into her world. I’d leave that same little tyrant asleep in bed, just to pee, and in a few seconds, she’d wake up wailing, looking for me. And there are the errands that I have to squeeze in between…paying the bills, budgeting (which I admit I am lousy at!), planning the menu, going to market, and keeping the house in order (a task that up to now I have yet to do!). It feels like a never-ending ride in a roller-coaster. Everyday I wake up, and I try to make it a better day than yesterday, and ask myself if it is indeed worth it to be living the dream. I look into my daughter’s eyes, half asleep on my tummy, latched on my breast, and I am one content and happy mother. Yes, the ride is definitely worth it and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
I’ve been watching the Philippine Idol (PI) finals these past few weeks and I’m close to crying foul here. I know that who stays and who goes all depends on the votes thru telephone and text, that’s how the show makes money, but every week PI loses the better singers, those more deserving to stay in the competition. All the singers I have rooted for are now out, except for one exceptional singer who has almost always been in the bottom three. I can’t help but think that the Philippines is indeed a vote-buying nation, where the best and most qualified does not necessarily win, and voting wisely is unheard of. Perhaps one or two contestants have a whole barangay rooting for them, or perhaps one’s family is willing to spend thousands in text and phone calls just to make their bet stay in the competition. My husband’s theory is that most of the voters are female, thus they vote more for the boys (more because of their looks) than their women counterparts who are equally (or even far more) deserving.
I know there have been upsets also in American Idol, still you’d notice that the really good ones stay, and all the American Idol winners are deserving in their own right. I could not picture the youngest finalist as the 1st Philippine Idol, nor the guy who forgot the lyrics of the song. So who will be the 1st Philippine Idol? Your guess is as good as mine.
My daughter Zoe will be turning 23 months this Sunday. In a month’s time she will officially be in her terrible twos, but this early we get to peek at how “terrible” she’s becoming. For instance, no matter how late it is and how much we distract her with stories, she will still remember that she wanted a cookie. And that’s at 11 in the evening, when everybody, including the moon, is asleep. She also knows that french goes with fries. So when one of my aunts asked her if she was speaking in French during one of Zoe’s uncomprehensible monologues, Zoe replied with, “fries?”
Speaking of french fries, my daughter is fast turning into a french fries monster. It’s not surprising actually because her dad is one, so I blame it on genetics. One Saturday, I took her to Jollibee and she devoured her large serving of fries with glee. Her yaya Arlene and I just took a few of her fries, just to let you know that it was really Zoe who finished it all off. Zoe was rather disappointed to see all her fries gone in a few minutes. She held out the carton and declared she wanted more. I tried to distract her and told her that we’ll be getting a new pack of fries someplace else, across the street to be exact, but we had to drop by another store first to buy something for daddy. Well, she bought that, but not quite. The minute we parked along the other street, she reminded me about her fries, and so off we went to Tropical Hut for another set of fries, this time I got the smaller carton just to be a little less guilty of indulging my daughter to high-fat, high-cholesterol junk food. Zoe again ate all the fries, as if there was no tomorrow. I know, I know, you might think I’m spoiling her by giving in to her wants. She isn’t a spoiled brat and that’s the truth.