18 February 2011

The Big House

Up and down, up and down, goes one of my first memories of grandmother’s house on Labo Street. I was at that young age when I could predictably be bribed with cookies. Mother used to say, go play with Eugene at the Big House, Lola would have plenty of Chips Ahoy for you if only you’d come visit her. My cousin and I ran from our apartments at the back of the family compound to where Lola Auring — our mothers' mother — spent evenings praying the Rosary and decorating the altar table. We had little idea of her unvisited loneliness. After grandfather died she lived alone in her “unit”, which was called the Big House, for it covered half of our land’s 240 square meters, with a balcony, three bedrooms, three bathrooms, built-in closets, and various sorts of colonial-looking furniture. Outside her window a lovely tamarind tree stood, in sunny days looking somewhat like out of a painting. There was also a mirror at the old-fashioned dressing table in her room that spooked us, for it was old and dirty and it turned our faces into faces we didn’t recognize, but we raced up the stairs anyway to take our grandmother’s hand and bless our foreheads with it. We eyed the little glass jar in which she had kept the cookies, and we stuck our little five-, six-, seven-year-old hands into the bottom of the jar where bits and chips of sweet chocolatey bribery had eroded. Then we climbed grandmother’s warm bed and jumped, up and down, up and down, the lace curtain swaying to the slow, lazy orchestra of summer afternoons.

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