8/22/2006

House on Atlantic Street

Notes from our visit this weekend to Seattle to celebrate 6 birthdays this month.

My mother told me a story of when she first arrived in the US in 1955 - she was standing at the corner of Kress and Wolworths (she always navigates by stores not streets *wink*) and passed two oldtimers. They looked her over and although she's a lighter skinned Filipina, they dismissed her, saying in Tagalog "She's US born." She told me that many of the manongs she met in the US had gone back to the Philippines to find at least teachers to marry ("a girl who wasn't at least a teacher wasn't worth the trouble")

My mother said she almost said something in 'the dialect' in retort, but thought the better of it... All her life she wanted to live her father's dream of living in the US, to be an American, and there she was, caught between the image of what she wanted to be and the reality of who she was, and seeing perhaps, for the first time, what wanting to be Other had cost her.

***********

My aunts, cousins, and I cobble together memories and confirm that Lola made her own lumpia wrappers out of flour and water (likely wheat, not rice flour, though) just as I remembered, on a pan heated on a two burner stove sitting on a low table.

She made "krumkake" cookies on that table, although my cousins tell me she likely made pizelles instead, and may or may not have included anise in the batter. We think/hope my older cousin has her pizelle iron and she has made cookies on it for several years.

Apparently Lola learned how to make the cookies from Auntie Dora, who really wasn't an Aunt, but the wife of my grandfather's cousin (herself a fourth cousin and a teacher) who was an oldtimer, a school boy who later became a gardener. Auntie Dora had made the cookies (flat) for my aunts and they loved them so much, my Lola bought an iron and learned how to make them. She likely traded recipes and techniques with the Italian family (Yasulina's?) across the street. They were my favorite cookie as a child and I hope to have my own iron soon.

*************************

Auntie Dora (Teodora) and Uncle Sammy (Simeon) were the oldtimers who introduced my parents to each other back in '56. Dad and his Navy buddies, on liberty in Seattle while their ship was in drydock, met Uncle Fred (Primativo) while riding the Bremerton Ferry. Uncle Fred took the Four Aces, as they were nicknamed, under his wing, introducing them to his wife Auntie Puring (Purificacion - a pharmacist) and telling them of a birthday party for my Mom. Uncle Fred was also an oldtimer, former schoolboy, working as an elevator operator downtown.

Dad caught mom's attention because he was the one designated to carry in the bouquet of flowers to her from the group. Uncle Fred wanted my mom to pick Dad's friend Mike instead because Mike had the courage to change Uncle Fred's son's diapers when they visited. The four of them would often stay the weekend at Uncle Fred's house, helping with chores and being the family they left and missed back home. Dad corresponded with Mom for almost 5 years before she consented to marry him.

*****************

Uncle Fred and Uncle Sammy were the ones who brought the plum trees to my dad as a housewarming gift. They're the trees that we'll will pick from in a few weeks. They're the children of the trees both oldtimers had planted and tended in their own city orchards. And the children of my father's trees are trying to take root at my own house today.

******************

Remembering is about hope, remembering hope, connecting hope back through time and forward again, of saying yeah, it wasn't the easiest of times, yes, there was prejudice, and still is prejudice, but we still had hope, we still have hope, because we set down roots and we grew and our children grew, and our children are having children who are growing beneath our branches.

No comments: