“I saw your dad na. You look like your mom.”
So goes my friend Gari via text one nondescript afternoon. It’s a no-brainer observation, certainly. My mom and I are spitting images of each other. I grew up getting used to comparisons between me and her by people who meet us, so I guess it comes as little surprise that I can relate more to her than I could to my Dad, and speak about her more often to friends. There’s always a story to tell about my Mom – she, the flamboyant, colorful, witty one with a penchant for drama and a flair for words.
Growing up, my dad was more of a silent and solid presence in my life. I remember when I was in second grade, I failed to make it to the track and field team for inter-school. (That was during a funky part of my life when I genuinely, honestly believed I was sporty) so I went home bawling my eyes out. I flew to the arms of my Mom, who hugged me and kissed me and told me I got a star in English and “honey, isn’t that so much better?”. In the background, my Dad was making a pot of hot chocolate, the thick native kind made with tablea from his home province Samar. Never had the sweet and slightly bitter blend of chocolate and cream and sugar taste so good. It told me I was home and safe – in the arms of people who believed that I could run like the wind.
In first year high school, I got kicked out of the Honors class for getting a line of 7 in Science. Again, I went home crying, my ego bruised and my heart broken. I knew it was my fault, I never really applied myself in school, but I had gotten so used to being in the honors class during my grade school years and was scared to death at the prospect of having to meet new friends from the other sections. Again, my mom was the one who fussed over me, and my dad was in the background, a hot mug of native chocolate in hand.
And it was like that, over and over. In third year high school when we lost the finals of the debate championship to Assumption, the hot chocolate was there too, in the same mug now chipped at the edges. It was there when we lost our beloved dog, Sparky, to old age; it was there when our family went through a financial crisis and we had to enroll in school on the strength of one promissory note after the other.
In first year college, when a musician with long hair and too many tattoos chased me with passion and then broke up with me because “you’re sixteen, you’re just a kid”, I wanted to ask for that cup of chocolate, but was too scared to have to explain why. At sixteen, I wasn’t supposed to have boyfriends, after all. I went to the kitchen and made myself my own cup. The result was a watery concoction that was too sweet and had brown lumps all over.
It’s four days since Father’s Day and this is a very delayed post. Nonetheless, here’s a shout-out to my beloved and wonderful Papa – silent, solid and steady; a comforting cup of chocolate on a rainy day. A thick, sweet, cholesterol-laden brew of fuzzy and unconditional love.