Life is what we make it, but childhood is what our parents make it. I cherish my happy childhood and credit my wonderful folks for it. They were not affluent, yet they managed – quietly struggled, perhaps – to provide us kids with fullness of experience. We were never deprived of anything, tangible or otherwise. Love, time, material things, opportunities, travel.
Especially during holiday season. For seven consecutive years in the 80s, we drove up to Baguio for Christmas. No mean feat for a family of 7 (Mom and Dad, 4 kids, and my lola) plus relatives, family friends, househelp, and driver. My parents didn’t preach; they practiced it. They opened our home, shared their blessings, and extended our family beyond blood relations.
Thanks to Dad’s friends in high places, we had the experience of staying at well-appointed chalets in Pacdal, a short trot away from the horseback riding trail. We ushered in Christmas gathered round the fireplace, roasting apples on sticks. Dad would preside over the proceedings. He started with a thanksgiving prayer and we made a toast with glasses of champagne, the only permissible time for the youngest in the brood to drink alcohol.
Just one year in seven we stayed in a hotel, but not just any. It was the now defunct but then posh and elegant hilltop mansion that was Diplomat Hotel.
Memory is powerful. Even pine scent that pervaded those Christmases of yore are still redolent today. Crackling fire that warmed the hearth of Christmas Eves past still warms my orphan heart. Mom, whether being forward-thinking or just developing a hobby for my sibs, encouraged photography. My brothers were shutterbugs way before the invention of the digicam and smartphone. My childhood was captured in several albums of photos. Priceless moments have become timeless memories.
But memory is also fragile. It can be putty to manipulation of the malicious. If anyone said that we had a “deprived childhood,” that would be farthest from the truth. No one should shamelessly diminish my parents in their face or project their own issues on my family.
A family friend puts it best: “Oral history is prone to revision and sometimes it is best to set things in writing – written in stone, so to speak – so the generations after will know the truth from first-hand information.”