This could be our revolution: to love what is plentiful as much as what's scarce. - Alice Walker

One thing you can say about aging is that the more years you pile up, the less stuff you need.  It took the pandemic to drive home that point.  Suddenly, with no workplace to go to, no out-of-town trips, no special occasions to attend, I find I have 18 pairs of shoes and some 30 dresses, pants and blouses too many.  It took a whole afternoon to wax off the mold forming on my idled bags, some 15 of them.

Most women still working the trenches have the impression that we can’t wear the same clothes or use the same bags or shoes in a week’s time because people would keep count and think we’re too poor to buy more.

Which is why I avoid flashy stuff, clothes that call too much attention to themselves that people would surely remember, not too proudly, how we burst into unkind laughter after noting how a newbie in the office was wearing the same brown corduroy pants with too many rivets for three days in a row.  We kinda commented on it the first time she passed by, about how warm it must be to wear those pants.  The second day she wore it, someone commented how it seemed to be her favorite.  The third time she sallied by in her corduroy, we laughed.  Yes, real mean of us.  I feel shame and remorse even as I write this many years after.

Maybe it’s karma or just the natural cycle of life, but I’ve realized how being noticed, even bullied, for one’s looks is as bad as suddenly being rendered invisible.  Especially among us women of a certain age. It’s like we’ve reached our expiry date and are pushed to the back of the pantry. Maybe that’s why some old folks are grumpy or plain eccentric. Past their reproductive age, women are forced into secondary roles—the supportive wife and mother, the doting grandma, the lonely cat lady living alone. Hardly noticed, largely ignored, given peremptory respect.

The small comfort I get is that, in being invisible—and with the face mask still an imperative in these COVID-19 times– I can wear darn anything I please without being judged as too frugal or too poor.  (Though the daughter would sometimes point out, “that’s too young/flashy/immodest, Mom!”).

Yes, being cooped up in the house amid a raging pandemic has given me new perspective, and a new appreciation for things that we used to take for granted.

With no space in the condo for a garden to indulge the plantita in me, I’ve learned to marvel at the buds peeking out of the orchid plants bought at the weekend market.  Imagine that, I’d say, how a bud little bigger than a grape could hold in its fold a bloom that can spread its petals so grandly to match the size of my palm. What magical use of space, and what a perfect surprise first thing in the morning!

 

On warm afternoons, I look out to a clump of trees some 300 meters from the window and consider it a perfect day when I see these two birds flying kite-like into the shelter of those trees. They’re too big to be pigeons and too graceful in their flight.  They’re herons, the hubby says, scanning the trees with his binoculars.  They must have nested in that tree because soon enough, I spy four white sails gliding across the tree line.  It is a reassuring sight.  Nature always finds a way, this dinosaur movie says, and this is why I believe it so fervently.

The community pantry gave me another proof of that. Even in the midst of a merciless pandemic, when people in government showed their most reckless and basest selves, how heartening to see the generosity of ordinary folk, the faceless masses who pitch in with several glasses of taho, a few canned goods, some vegetables from their backyard, and some spare instant noodles to keep the communal larder going. Imagine those Red-taggers wilting—maybe not in shame, they have none of that—but out of rage and envy at how people will always draw from goodness in the darkest of times.

Pennie's article3

 

The neighborhood herons remind me as well of the story from this old town in the Netherlands, which we visited during a family vacation many many years ago. The town used to burn witches and I was curious.  There we met a Filipino woman married to a Dutch who regaled us with hilarious tales of cultural dissonance while her hubby looked on with an indulgent smile.  How were things here, I wanted to know, expecting something profound on how a town had since lived with its conscience after burning innocent women for something as trivial as owning a black cat or preferring to live alone.

Oh, Cynthia responded, brightening up.  The people here were so excited, she said.  After so many years, the crane hatched its eggs in the church belfry.  The town, she said, had monitored a crane roosting in the church and found several eggs in its nest. Using binoculars, they would regularly check on the eggs, and finally found their watch rewarded.  There were several crane chicks, Cynthia said excitedly, like she just had a new brood of grandchildren.

That story has stayed with me.  There is unexpected pleasure to be found, joy to be had, in the littlest things and seemingly inconsequential stuff of individual lives. They may not always be earthshaking or life-changing, but they make every day a gift to be unboxed, a surprise savored especially in these uncertain times.

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Pennie Azarcon Dela Cruz

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Pennie Azarcon Dela Cruz was a news desk editor at the Philippine Daily Inquirer and executive editor of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. She was also a regular resource speaker on media for the Inquirer Academy and conducts writing seminars and workshops for schools and NGOs. She has won several awards in Journalism, among them two AIDS Media Awards, a DOST Science & Technology award, a National Book Award for best anthology, and a KLM Quill Award for best travel story. She received a fellowship as well from the FOJO institute of journalism in Sweden, and a grant from the Women's Edition and Population Reference Bureau in Washington D.C. to write about women’s health concerns. After finishing Journalism at the University of Sto. Tomas with magna cum laude and Rector’s Awardee honors, she immersed herself in the local women’s movement before joining mainstream media as contributing writer and editor for various publications. An Asia Foundation fellow, Ms. Azarcon-dela Cruz was project director of the media monitoring group Mediawatch for the women’s group Pilipina. She has authored and edited primers and modules on women and politics, adolescent sexuality, gender-responsive development, domestic violence, sexual harassment, sex tourism, population, Muslim women, and women’s rights for various NGOs and UN agencies. She briefly taught media subjects at the St. Scholastica’s Institute of Women’s Studies as well.

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