the tortoise and the shadow

i think the hardest thing—people—to write about are events you want to cherish forever, and about people you truly love.

mateo exclaimed out of the blue last night: “mommy, my favorite color is the color tortoise!” of course marco corrected him—“TUR-QUOISE. light blue sya, na parang…” and the rest was drowned out in a din of each other defending himself and justifying and explaining…

and then came the call for succor by marco: “mommy, my throat hurts,” to which i responded by letting him suck on licorice lozenges, with the instruction to brush his teeth after.

but he just stood there, as mateo, simone and i continued to watch The Shadow on HBO. marco, his face set like mine when bent on not obeying, giving me excuse after excuse for not brushing his teeth. “i can’t turn on the light.” “mateo doesn’t want to help me.” without admitting that he’s scared of the dark.

i tell him he’s not returning to bed if he doesn’t brush his teeth (we’re camped out in my parents’ bedroom—marco beside me, mateo and sim sleeping on an airbed on the floor.) “you’re going to stand there until you brush your teeth,” i warn. the tiger mother excerpt by amy chua flashes through my mind, but no, i don’t think i am injuring my son for life by telling him to brush his teeth.

“i’ll turn it on!” cries mateo.

“no! you let marco do it. marco,” i tell his twin. “go on. it’s all in the head, go in and turn on the lights.” while i say it, i feel sickeningly hypocritical, as it’s very difficult for me to get “outside my head” when i’m fixated on something.

“you can do something if you believe in it,” states mateo, echoing something their teachers must’ve taught them.

marco stands there, fidgeting and chewing on his lip.

mateo has to pee. “i have to pee!” and so he runs into the bathroom. marco doesn’t realize his opportunity and i have to prod him. 

he rushes in, brushes his teeth while his twin takes a kilometric leak, and rushes out, turning off the lights while mateo is still peeing.

“mateo takes so long to pee,” sim says drily.

seconds after, everyone is back in his and her place, under the covers, watching Alec Baldwin battle a descendant of Genghis Khan and rescue New York City from destruction.

the twins and i share a bear hug before saying good night.

i lie still and awake, wondering how i can capture such memories, keep them like archaeological treasures in my mind, code and cross-index them, detail by detail, so nothing is lost.

i cannot sleep. i slip outside, try to find sleep in my parents’ meagre liquor supply (my dad hasn’t opened his cognac yet, so i keep away from it). i find it, temporarily, then awake three hours after to make sure simone is ready for school. 

“mommy, do i put pimple medication now?”

“no. what if you go to class with medicine on your forehead?”

“oh yeah,” she says, smiling sheepishly, her cupid bow lips pulling over her incisor. there’s a gap between it and the tooth beside it, which, in her world, makes her eligible for braces. “bye.” she kisses me on the cheek and i groggily respond. “bye, anak.”

and i stagger out after she has gone. marco and mateo are tangled in their blankets. i still need sleep, am still rhapsodizing, still obsessed about immortalizing every moment i have with my children.

9:05 am

jan 19 2011

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