An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

14 May 2007

Noon in the garden of good and evil

When I was a little girl my mother once worked in our garden under heavy rains, and used her bare hands to sculpt soil into mounds and hills and steps of different shapes and sizes. She said she needed to work with the heavy rains because the water makes the soil easier to shape. I watched her from the window, watched her on the far side of the garden, her rain-sodden clothes clinging to her back, the rest of her barely discernible through the curtain of rain.

Over the next couple of days she would keep working in the garden, reshaping the grounds, planting flower beds, ferns, vines, and even small trees. Every afternoon, when it starts to get dark, she would finally go into the house, the maid running to her with towels and a bathrobe, and she would go straight to the bathroom for a hot shower, but not before I catch a glimpse of her blackened nails and muddy pants.

After a couple more days of heavy rains, my mother stopped working on the garden and declared it finished. The very next day, as if under command, the sun came out to harden the new shapes, seal them into their new decorative incarnations, and make the lawn less soggy for us to run around in. Because it was the season for Agua de Mayo, heavy rains came interspersed with fiercely sunny days, but for the rest of the season, after the garden was done, my mother stayed in with us when it rained.

We lived in that small house with the big garden until I was 13. Now my mother lives in a far bigger house with a slightly smaller garden. She does not shape the grounds with her bare hands under heavy rains anymore. She now has gardeners to shape her garden into the mounds and hills and steps that she likes, and she doesn't go out of the house when it's raining. There is a wall of bougainvilleas in the far wall, and pots of papyrus and ficus and bottlebrush and various other plants. She holds her parties in the garden. She has the gardeners put in tiny white lights all around, and her friends come over to eat cake and talk about gardens.

Just recently she asked me what kind of garden I would like to have. I told her I wanted a garden that was overgrown, unplanned, unkempt, and without a single flower. Everything should be just leaves and branches, and there would be secret places to hide, and insects and snakes. She chuckled at that.

We were not always this cool with each other. There was a time when quarrels were the order of the day, and we would argue about everything under the sun, such as my clothes, my hair, her habit of always telling me what to do, her forcing me to go to Sunday mass, my telebabad with friends. Everyday was judgement day. We were your normal mother-and-daughter -- dysfunctional, emotional, hormonal, eternally irate with each other, a couple of crazies. I left home in a huff; she waved me away, telling me to take whatever I needed and just go. I never noticed when all of that ended. Just like I barely noticed when she had stopped shaping her garden with her own hands under heavy rains, I also barely noticed when she started having gray hairs and started the habit of putting her legs up on a second chair each time she watched the late night news.

I left home, she waved me away. Now I know it was just a phase, which, as all phases in women's lives go, have barely discernible boundaries. You never can put a finger at the point of change. You just feel a different drift in the air, hear a different sound, notice that you have lesser and lesser pimples, perhaps, or that you have begun to crave more fruits, and then, you see that you yourself are not the same person you once were. You become pregnant, you become a mother and then realize it only a little later, as if all the medication has made your sensibilities lag a little, and then you catch up. And then you have a teenager, and then you become a grandmother yourself, lagging sometimes, and then catching up, huffing and puffing at the effort, developing arthritis in the process, getting gray hairs in the process, getting your heart broken and then healed again and then broken and then healed again in the process, turning your heart into some kind of patchwork, tender in some places and tough in some places. Love makes you feel young, but it also makes you grow old. A woman is never just one thing.

I always come back to this house, when I am sick, when I am lonely, or when I am dealing with something difficult. And she always looks glad when I drive over, asking me what food I want the cook to prepare. Some afternoons I walk in her garden, thinking that flowers are not so bad to have after all. And in my mother's garden now, it is always bright and sunny noon, even when it's night, even when it rains.

Happy Mother's Day, Mama Eden.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi! you know i visit your blog every now and then to check out your latest entry..i enjoy reading your blogs.. :) keep writing and posting! >",<


5:09 AM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Thanks! :) Do keep visiting.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous davidbdale said...

That was truly beautiful, Mary Ann. Sentimental nonsense about perfect mothers and daughters do justice to neither. Your loving acknowledgment that the path of love an understanding is long and winding is a real tribute. Particularly poignant was the "drift in the air". I don't know why. But, thank you.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Hi, David! Glad you liked it. Now if only I could come up with a 299-word novel...

10:58 PM  
Blogger Witness Street said...

Exquisite. The image of a woman's feet on a second chair strikes poignantly like in a tiny, heartbreaking, Filipino commonplace.

Quick question, though, and in all likelihood a plain stupid one. Are you telling us your mother's name is really Eden? ;)

1:31 AM  
Anonymous martha said...

I like how you've conveyed positive memories here, without covering the fact that life is vague, messy and imperfect. A pleasure to read!

2:14 AM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Hi, Migs! Yes, her name is really Eden. She's one of the "stars" in my story "At Merienda."

Hi, Martha! Glad you liked it. Thanks for dropping by!

8:58 AM  
Blogger Marne Kilates said...

Hi Maryanne,

Thanks for the visit! I have a new post. I've linked you up too.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Great! Thanks, Marne.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Nienke said...

Hi Maryanne:
I have to say I enjoy reading your blog. Your writing is simple and eloquent.
BTW, thx for linking to my blog, I've reciprocated.
All the best to you!

3:46 AM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Thanks, Nienke. I do like your blog. Being so busy at the moment, I can't devote much time to finding out what's going on out there, so your blog is really helpful and insightful, and fun!

Keep visiting! :)

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Gomi said...

That was absolutely moving... and reminds me to make a major makeover in my garden, well, it used to be a garden.

It's nice to step away from our self-imposed busy schedules and admire the simple things.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Hey, Gomi! You finally dropped by! Good luck on the garden project. :)

11:11 AM  
Blogger radueriel said...

golly! you're published?

kainggit naman...

(just droppin by...)

5:10 PM  
Blogger ramblingsoul said...

uy, thanks for the link. link na rin kita ha. :)

6:20 PM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Hey, Joel! No prob. Thanks, too.

6:25 PM  
Blogger MyUtopia said...

Playing in the dirt is fun! What a great post.

4:25 AM  
Blogger radueriel said...

maryanne moll, i think you're mistaken..(or maybe i am)we never met. not yet. i know some Sir Butch, he conducted a workshop too and i was there, but i don't know any migs and tim and luna. (what, maybe i got cloned!hehehe)

fyi: i'm from the southernmost tips of the philippines.

thnx for droppin by my blog, by the way.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Ah, well. Tatanda ka rin. Haha! :)

6:12 PM  

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