The arrangement was to care for my sister, number four in the birth order. She was a baby. I remember this because my grandmother fondly referred to my sister as "her baby". It amazes me, that my mother, who worked full time as a nurse at the hospital, through her varicose veins, managed the family before my grandmother arrived. She worked the midnight shift from two to midnight as a nurse. Mom got us ready in the morning and dropped us off at school. After school, we carpooled, stayed at a Filipno lady's house until my father picked us up. He probably thought when child number four was born that it probably did not make sense to pay someone to watch that many children economically, if his mother can watch them for free. My father was determined to have one more boy, so with this in mind, my mother and father probably figured they would certainly be in over their head.
Imagine, growing up first generation Filipino, with the old school values of my grandmother. I knew she left my grandfather to be with us, and to this day I am not quite sure I understand how much of a sacrifice or liberation this was for her. I think it was more of a family obligation, to care for the children of your eldest son, your grandchildren. Her sons were all grown and she technically had an empty nest. I can imagine that the whole thing was probably her idea now that I think of it.
I barely remember the day she arrived. It was in the evening and this was a very big event in our tiny three bedroom house. I remember that she wore ruby and gold earrings. I later learned they were ruby and copper. I think my cousin is in possession of them now. I quietly covet them until this day because of this memory. She had a wedding ring made up of many small bands of gold. She said it was held together by other symbols long gone, I think a heart being one of the symbols. She also brought a salty, sweet candy wrapped in yellow cellophane paper. When you ate the candy, a smooth seed was on the inside - tamarind.
From my six year old eyes, she seemed old to me. The reality was that she was actually very young, in her fifties. Her eyes seemed like they had seen many stories. I liked her, but her strong presence intimidated me at the same time. I remember feeling a little unsure that she was to take care of us. In a way, there was a feeling of a sense of loss in the way things were and an anticipation of things to come.
As I grow older and look in the mirror in my own eyes, I see I am looking more and more like her. My childhood wonder prevails to this day. What stories did this woman have? In her lifetime, did I hear them all?