During the two months school break, this falls on April and May, we spend the last week of April staying with our maternal grandparents. Together with my three brothers we are in the company of our Tatay and Nanay sharing dinners and helping them with everyday household chores. And the dreaded limited TV time. It sucks but somewhat good for us.
Taking this one week vacation with them is more like taking volunteer work. Not that we are complaining or we do not want to be with our grandparents but young and carefree as we are back in those days we choose to spend our afternoons lounging or watching TV. If we are at their place during that week, we run for the clock. Every hour counts and we need to have something to do and be good at it.
Simple household chores make most of that to-do list. From making our beds the moment we woke up to sweeping the yard off with dead leaves in the late afternoon. In doing this, we have to observe silence and focus to doing it right. Nanay is strict and commands strong. Her voice alone makes us jump out of our seats or whatever we are doing. That’s the way she runs her household when we are there. But it is not really necessary because we are as reserved as Tatay. Maybe I got my reservations from him. Our parents made sure we behave well and respect elders. Thinking about it now, maybe Nanay just anticipated our rowdiness and tendencies to escape of her house to explore neighboring empty lots and mini jungle.
We grew up exposed to cemented roads, sparsely green public playground and uncomfortable mini park. Staying at our grandparents is our time to get to really take a walk under the trees along an empty dirt road. Running around and playing tag on an eerie lot lined with coconut trees and bamboos is all we do when it’s not too hot. We do this along with our cousins that lives there too.
I really enjoy this part of school break. I get to shout on top of my lungs with all the trees only staring at me. I am the weird nature loving kid. I can’t keep myself when I am outdoor. I touch the leaves. Hug the tree trunks. Pick some stones and throw it as far as I can. Get on top of those empty ant mounds and do a spread like an eagle with its wings open. Running along furrow after furrow without tripping. Just wanting to get some dirt on my feet and feel the warmth of the earth.
All of these we get to do when we’re finished with all the tasks. Nanay approves of it and would let us take the time out. Our mother gets to put off her parent hat during this time too. A short break when she returns home and be a doting daughter to her mother as well.
With all these gallivanting, Tatay is just reserved and nearby. I know he pretends looking at his carabaos but he is watching over us. He is such a quiet man. As I write this, imagining his voice and tone is lost in me. He speaks in low but round voice. Sometimes raspy at the end. His face stern at times but always kind in appearance. A memorable spot where we would gather around him when he is sitting on his rocking chair taking his time too.
Either one of us would sit on one of the arm rests or the rest of us would just sit on the ledge at the veranda. We do this late in the afternoons. I can’t remember what do we usually talk about. I was in third grade when he died and I can only remember so much of him.
With Nanay, we get to spend a little more time of her company. But I still miss them at their old house. The house as of today doesn’t feel like home anymore. It’s a dissonance of what it was like when they were still living but the memories and silence linger on.
It’s been a while since I got there.