Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Tabada: Secret of life

Butt-smelling was my rude introduction to Auntie Socks. Early one morning, Noki scooted off as I was sweeping leaves in the street.

She reappeared, trailing behind a lady whose pinched face and stilted steps said she was not happy to have our aspin’s snout quizzing her behind.

I apologized, explaining that dogs picked up information by way of their noses: friend or foe, mate or rival? Interjected our neighbor, “And I thought your dog just wanted to eat me.”

By six o’clock in the morning, the aunties are roving in the village. Average age: 80 years. At 55 and with hair flecked with more pale strands than dark, I count myself as a junior auntie.

Having lost their house with help from her husband (“only help he gave I did not want”), Auntie Socks rotates among four children. Finding New York “too cold”; Metro Manila, “too warm”; and Sagay “too far,” Auntie Socks prefers Silang, where she walks daily to ease varicose pain.

In pink slippers and dotted melon socks, Auntie Socks sometimes joins Auntie Camias. A year ago, on my way to feed the feral mother of the puppies we adopted, Auntie Camias used a walker as aid in making a short circuit in front of their house.

She has upgraded to a cane. When Auntie and her companion return from their walk, their hands are sometimes full of plump camias given by a neighbor. Auntie Camias always chats with the mother and daughter cats accompanying me; they love her, too, specially the fish tidbits soured in camias broth she leaves out for them.

Inda is more “ima” (mother) than “nunu” (grandauntie) to her Kapampangan relations. The first friend I made, Inda gave up cigarettes after last year’s Taal ashfall. My daily partner in sweeping and bagging dead leaves observed that dead people should be as easy to dispose of. If I reach Inda’s age, I hope to keep a sense of irony, even if I lose all my teeth.

Honorary auntie is Uncle Special Ingredient. Surviving a stroke four years ago, Uncle, 84, calls out, “tinapay” (bread), from the e-trike he drives past our street six days a week.

My favorites are his tinapay with malunggay and tinapay with ube. I asked him why he never announces that the latter has bits of salty cheese setting off the sweet ube. Uncle said the cheese is a “secret” between him and his “suki” (patrons).

Actually, our gang has two Auntie Socks. In 2016, when I first binged on Korean dramas (K-dramas), I wore socks to bed as it was very cold at dawn when I tiptoed to switch off the router. My sons said no socks could disguise the overnight “shenanigans” of someone old enough to know better than to fall for the “next episode” syndrome.

To be in our gang, life has to happen.


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