Great Little Housewife-A A +A
Monday, September 16, 2013
THERE are bright-eyed girls who grow up into strong and successful women, and there are bright-eyed girls who become cheerless women, because they've chosen to commit their lives in the service of their husbands and children at the expense of their personal dreams, and live to regret it.
Although a lot of women have both domestic bliss and a satisfying career, there are some who choose one or the other, and never look back.
And then there's Mrs. Lydia G. of Dolores, Mabalacat.
Every morning before the sun was up she'd already be pacing breathlessly between the stove and the ironing board. Soon she’d be bending over to tie her children’s shoes and fixing their lunchboxes and putting toothpaste on their toothbrush and handing the car keys to her husband and waving good-bye at them at the door.
After everyone had left, she'd prop up her tired legs on the sofa and catch up on sleep for an hour or so. Then it was time to go to the sari-sari store to buy garlic and catch the latest gossip in the neighborhood, and she’d spend the rest of the day watching show after show on TV with a bowl of instant noodles and a plateful of salted peanuts, until it was time to prepare dinner and bed for the returning masters of the house.
At dinner she hovered over them like a servant, refilling each glass before it was empty and refusing to eat until after everyone had left the table. She usually finished their leftovers.
And long after the kids had gone to bed she would still linger downstairs to do the dishes and finish their homework and shine their shoes. She'd throw the garbage outside, feed the dog, lock all doors and windows, and turn off the lights one by one.
Then she’d shower and lie down beside her waiting husband to perform her other duties as wife.
Around midnight her husband would at last turn around to leave her alone, and she’d have only a few hours left to sleep, three hours or four at most, not enough in which to dream her dreams of traveling to faraway lands, walking on the beach, running her own business, teaching in a university, dreams long set aside but not forgotten.
That was the rhythm and meaning and purpose of Mrs. Lydia’s existence. It was organized, it was uneventful, and it was safe.
And then Mount Pinatubo erupted, and Mrs. Lydia’s neat little world turned upside down.
The roof filled with sand and leaked and ruined her sofa. A tree collapsed and destroyed her orchid garden. The toilet stank, the meat in the ref rotted, and there was no water to wash their clothes and the dishes with.
And the dust that swirled around the house for months stuck on the carpet, on the curtains, and gave the children asthma. If there was one thing Mrs. Lydia hated, it was dust, and now the volcano had dumped tons of it into her life.
One evening a barangay official knocked on their door to tell them about lahar.
“What’s lahar?” they asked.
“It’s boiling mud coming down through Sacobia River from the slopes of Pinatubo,” he told them. “We must evacuate at once.”
Mrs. Lydia’s husband argued that the river was a good distance from their community and there was no way any overflow could reach them.
The barangay official explained that the river was actually closer to them upstream, where it elbowed before going farther away downstream.
“And just because it’s sunny here doesn’t mean the lahar will not flow,” the barangay official warned. “Sometimes it’s raining on the mountain and we don’t even know it.”
Quickly understanding the situation, Mrs. Lydia gathered her children and begged her husband to evacuate immediately. He looked at her with contempt and said, “You are so stupid. Don’t you see how far the Sacobia bridge is from here? The river would flood hundreds of houses first before reaching us. What’s for dinner?”
Ignoring him, Mrs. Lydia rushed upstairs to pack. He followed her angrily. “You’re scaring the children, you stupid fool,” he growled at her. She answered back, “You want to stay? Then stay, but let the children go with me!”
“The children will stay. You go alone,” he told her, banging the door after him.
Early the next morning, without warning, lahar swept across the village. As the barangay official had predicted, the river overtopped its banks upstream the headed straight for Brgy. Dolores, bulldozing everything in its path.
Among those killed were Mrs. Lydia’s husband and children, who were found buried beside their car in the garage. Mrs. Lydia was nowhere to be found.
Some speculated that she had probably tried to open the gate for them and got swept away. It was so typical of her to do that --serve her family up to the very end, even at her own risk.
Well, I don’t think so.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 17, 2013.