Burger nostalgia-A A +A
Wrapped in Grey
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
THERE is your turntable. Sepia-colored shots. And a beautiful grandmother getting ready for a trip downtown. This should have been fair warning that manipulation is at hand. But when the needle begins to caress the vinyl, and the crackle, hiss, and pop lays the necessary ambient atmosphere, and then the song plays, I was riveted in my seat immobilized, despite the strong impulse to pull away. A flashback of my own fading memories of childhood appeared before me.
There was my own mother doing the same thing, transforming herself from the duster-wearing housewife to a strange creature of beauty. When she picked me up, a young boy's heart swelled with a secret pride. This beautiful woman was taking me out with her to a trip downtown.
The exact song on our turntable promised of a consumerist adventure which in the era of martial law meant a visit to Quad or SM Makati. Here, my mother would flash her credit booklet which looked like a library card, almost full with scribbling for the yearly expenses of uniforms and shoes. It was not yet the age of the plastic credit card and her tally of unpaid expenses was immediately accessible. So I remember these trips not as spending sprees undertaken with wild abandon but rather a worrying exercise of determining what she could buy and could not. She was a housewife after all, dependent on my father's meager salary for everything.
But the young boy that I was would test this beautiful woman's mettle. On occasion, there would be tantrums for that expensive steel lunch box while she, with all the salesmanship she could muster, tried to offer a cheaper plastic equivalent to no success. Funny, how as kids who grew up on television somehow knew those finer things in life which, when purchased, meant a cut in the grocery expenses for that month. I knew about it because she told me while discussing the differing merits of the expensive steel or cheaper plastic lunch boxes.
But I guess it was an oedipal struggle, and the consumerist desires of a young boy won over the worry. Besides, she must have taught that her make-up and earrings and the fashionable hairstyle she painstakingly achieved overnight through those pink cylindrical contraptions called curlers did not go well with a pouting young boy on the verge of tears because of a yet unknown but deep consumerist disappointment. It was a mall in Makati after all, and those behaviors are reserved for those who could not afford. She, on the other hand, with curlers and all, had to pretend.
So I got that steel Star Wars lunch box and it was a momentary victory for the young boy, an affirmation of motherly love articulated through consumerism. I am sure it was the same for her and so we both won with that purchase undertaken with her eyes closed so to speak for that was and still is the kind of behavior expected in bright and blinding malls. For in malls, the code was the good life and everyone must pretend that all the nice things money could buy were within reach.
Of course all these are products of hindsight. With age, these childhood memories achieve a new gravity and I regret putting my valiant mother in those difficult situations. But what is a young boy to do when all those toys were paraded before him on TV in Uncle Bob's Lucky Seven Club?
Decades later and after seeing my mother through her final experience of pain when she succumbed to breast cancer, I now have a better understanding of the poignant struggles mothers go through in raising children in our day and age. Especially nowadays when our expressions of familial love seemed to have been hijacked by manipulative advertisements and the total package of the good life offered by malls.
That is why I may be grateful on the one hand but I am more indignant over that advert. I am thankful for the occasion to be reminded of the heroism of my mother who tried as best as she can to provide us with the good life with limited success. But in the continuing age of want, I am indignant how that commercial cheapens her memory and other mothers who struggle just like her. Maybe it's just me, but the TV spot reaches too deep into our generation's memory and emotion just to sell burgers.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 01, 2013.