Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Tale Twice, or Thrice Told


If time were not a moving thing and we could make it all stay, then I would wish that the blissful memories lovingly stored in my mind would stay the same and constant.

But it is not to be for time inexorably moves on, and most typically its harsh elements bring the unwanted ravages many of us are unwilling to accept.

And so it is while intently revisiting the place where an over-sized family once stayed and grew up.  A small place in the heart of the city just beginning to flex its young muscles in the decade of the 50’s. The old timber house built in 1948 on a hundred square meter lot has now been gone decades, but somehow its immediate vicinity has managed to stem the tides of time, keeping its looks much like they were in the 50’s.

What remains then are the microcosmic haunts that I as a kid used to spend interminable time , whether at play, in study, or just in idle moments which as kids in the idyllic 50’s we had plenty of.

One such favored place was the covered walkway separating the two houses of my father and that of her elder sister on the Victoria St. side. It may have been no more than 3 meters wide and 10 meters long.  The underside of my aunt’s staircase limiting our movements at one end, and our outdoor bath and laundry room on the other end.  This place was perpetually dark, dank, and dirty, making the soil loamy and rancid.  But while there we were sheltered from the sun and rain.  So there we played our geolens game, pock-marking the place with the shallow holes we needed for the play.  Many idle moments witnessed our noisy presence in that small cramped space, none the worse for its limitations in size.  In times past as I got older, I would find myself smirking as I pass that area, being reminded of even earlier times.  The images attached are now those of the current day, and a lifetime apart from my childhood.  Still the memories linger and haunt.

 On the Del Mar St. side, another lot owned by a younger sister of my father, stayed vacant for a good part of the 50’s.  And so that became our playground, sunny and expansive, all of 200 square meters and where once stood a very proud tambis tree.   At some point, a crude timber garage structure under GI roofing was built at the back to accommodate a couple of vehicles.  Still farther back was the laundry-drying area where strung laundry lines swayed in the wind.  Thus most days one could find my hardworking mom mechanically going through the self-same routines of drying laundry for a household with nine kids.

And so this multi-purpose space was the scene of many of our youthful mishaps, like learning to ride a bike, carefully climbing the tree for its delicious fruits, clambering on the trusses and joists of the garage structure, deep in our pretend games of being vine-swinging Tarzan and the other Hollywood heroes we had accumulated in our youth.  I even played knife-throwing Errol Flynn, using the poor tree as target. And so forth. 

And yes, we even had some left-over space to maintain a little vegetable garden where sibuyas and kamatis, and pechay were planted.  At times chasing after the pesky talisik or the bigger talapan which were bountiful then.

I particularly as a kid spent much time in my escapist thoughts in this area, mindlessly engrossed in my own pretend world oblivious of all the distractions around.

 All this ended when my aunt decided to build a house in that vacant lot.  So we got restricted and hemmed in to our side of our house, with very little access to the back where the laundry was dried.  Reliving those days you would still witness my mom inching her way through a narrowed path to hang her laundry.

And to this day, laundry still hangs on that area where slivers of sunshine could still penetrate during certain hours of the day.

Yes, time moves on.  At times slow and painstaking, at times completely obliterating the past.   Regardless, my memories are my own and only I can discard them.


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