Tuesday, August 12, 2003

more than three

Nikki and I were in bed, and, as is the way between us, we ended up talking about several things: how our days were, what Sage did today, what's being written by whom, what we're reading, things like that.

Conversation moved to our grandparents (you know how fluid conversation is) and I asked her exactly how many things she remembered about her maternal grandmother who died before Nikki turned a year old.

"She was a concert pianist," Nikki began, and I raised a finger, marking her first memory.

"How do you know this?"

"My mother told me," she replied.

"What else?"

"She used to make candies out of flowers."

"Really?" For a while I thought I heard it the other way around, imagining florette-shaped candies.

"She did," Nikki told me. "She'd make them and my brothers would eat them, like little fairy children."

We both laughed at the image it conjured - her hulking brothers in Midsummer Night's Eve attire, delicately nibbling at peonies and strange-named blossoms.

"That's two. Two memories," I counted, my fingers raised. "What else?"

"Her name was Mansueta. Her nickname was Chuting," she finished.

"That's it?" I asked, looking at my three fingers.

"Yup. That's all I remember my mother told me."

Nikki didn't have an image of Mansueta, nicknamed Chuting, because all her grandmother's photographs were buried with her, so she wouldn't miss them.

I told her that I thought I remembered just the same number of things about my maternal grandfather - and he lived until I was a teenager: that his name was Crisanto (nicknamed "Santing"); that when I was three or so, he'd take me to barbershop to show off the fact that I spoke English quite well and wasn't afraid to speak to anyone; and that, once, he took me hunting for hermit crabs at the Kanigaran beach in Palawan.

I was saddened by the paucity of our memories.

"Do you think you're an interesting person? Do you think I'm an interesting person?" I asked my wife as I thought about how transitory everything, especially memory, was.

"Of course," she replied. "Why?"

"Because I'd like to be remembered by our grandchildren for more than three things."

On cue, Sage laughed from the living room, filling the air in our bedroom with something beyond words, beyond feeling. And for the next few hours, all thoughts of remembrance were superseded by the living truth of our daughter.


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