Jan. 21, 2006

a girl named valerie

(and assorted memories of a time called 'before')

believe it or not, there actually was a time before -- before the internet, before yahoo!pool, before e-mail and mirc and blogs and both versions of the playstation, before dvds and buffy and cable television -- and it was during this time that i met my sister's first best friend, a then-plump girl named valerie.

if by the way i had described that time it seems so long ago, it's because it is. i was around 11 or 12; she and my sister were both 7, 8ish. her cousin lived right in front of us, and she'd stayed there a lot. it was the summer of 1995, 1996, 1997 -- only i can't pinpoint exactly which one. it was as if these summers bled into each other, regardless of the months in between.

the passing of years does funny things to the memory; what you don't write down, you eventually forget. i guess i will simply have to continue wondering just what an 11-year-old version of me could have written about. (couldhavebeen! aha!)

anyway, my sister and i took swimming lessons in the morning, that summer of 1996. i remember because i entered sixth grade with a severe tan that clung onto me for months. valerie did not take summer lessons, or at least, not as i remember. but we did swim together a lot -- me and her and our innocent 'humps' that my sister didn't have. (and was not set to have until several, several years later. hehe.)

we'd finish just in time for lunch. there were afternoons when we would fall asleep, but these were very rare, and only out of sheer exhaustion from swimming. most of the time, however, we'll be playing pog in the garage, where there was shade and it was not too hot.

yes, pog, little round things with hairy cavemen (?) drawn on them? remember quite clearly having been reduced to tears when i lost a particularly big bet to valerie's cousin, who was also around their age. i always blush at that memory because it was all so juvenile, and yes, 10 years later, i still am. blushing.

on some afternoons, when we're tired of pog and zenki (remember that cute little cartoon on channel 2?), we'd head for the roof -- much to my mother's dismay, because come the rains in june, they'd be leaking. i don't think she ever understood our fascination with the neighbor's indian mangoes. take note, NOT indian mangoes in general, but the neighbor's. come to think of it, those we picked ourselves did taste better. this girl valerie was good at picking green mangoes; or at least, way better than i was.

the heat got bearable around 4 to 4:30, and that's when we go out of our house to play with the other kids: usually a good game of street basketball (there was a makeshift basketball ring and board hanging from one of the coconut trees in front of our house) or if we were exceptionally plenty, dodge ball. (using a brightly colored ball made of somewhat hard foam dipped in stagnant water in the sidewalk gutters. haha.)

on particularly masungit afternoons (pms could not have been an excuse because this was also before the period, hehe), it would be battle of the sexes in agawan-base, which usually ended in various bruises and scratches. our mother particularly hated how dirty our feet became come dinner time.

on some afternoons, where there were no boys to piss off, we would pick on her yaya, who was the first liar!bitch i've ever known in my life. i remember cutting out letters from old Moneysaver magazines (anybody remember these?) and pasting them on bond paper to form non-traceable death threats. we'd cut them up, paste them and fold them and valerie would be the one to tuck them inside her cousin's mailbox. brilliant kids, yes we were. did neng the yaya ever really found out? i don't think i remember having been reprimanded though.

come may, we'd spend most early evenings in church (yes! yes! YES!), singing and offering flowers (YES!) to the blessed virgin, well, because it was may and it was her month, and it was a good way to stay out of the house for a few more hours, for a few more stories, especially on nights when there wasn't really anything interesting on TV. 'interesting' meant either bubble gang, power rangers or some random friday night cartoon on channel 2 (ewoks, anyone?). i forgot to mention, this was also before telenovelas.

curfew was usually 7:30 p.m. my mother would tell both of us off for staying out so late. how ever could i have explained to my mother how taguan was far more interesting after 6 p.m.? and that it really was more interesting biking outdoors than staying in to watch over our newly born brother?

my mother heard none of my excuses. (krista was a very quiet girl) she was convinced valerie and the rest of the girls we had spent most of our summer days with were bad company.

well, looking back, i really don't think they were. i was just a 12-year-old girl with 12-year-old priorities, that's all.

it took this long a time for me to finally admit to myself how i had really half-hated my mother for labeling my friends, dismissing them as not good influences when she never really got to know them in the first place -- but then, that was when i was a lot younger, and i thought i knew a lot of things.

come to think of it, maybe my mother really understood. maybe she also knew something else, like how she just had to speed up our maturity because she was going away quite soon.

* * *

i entered high school. valerie went to dubai to be with her mother. our mother died and we bought a computer and carmen sandiego and eventually, we hooked it up to the internet, and from hereon we started going out less.

my sister got to know her math really well, i had my new set of high school-related angst. i had friends to worry about, teachers to please, and my sister was struggling with her own non-math demons.

my sister then entered pisay, and i entered UP, and together we both added to our burdens some more. my sister started coming out of her shell; i ended up coming out of my closet. (haha.)

ten years -- several new friends, experiences, lessons -- later, the summers of 1995, 1996, 1997 now seem so long ago: the stuff for childhood-related memoirs, not at all unlike this one, just waiting to be unearthed.

* * *

later tonight, i will join my sister and my other cousin mark in valerie's 18th birthday celebration (a.k.a. en grandeng debut ng unica hija) and i will find out just how long we have come from illicit indian mangoes, games of pog and death threats using cut-out magazine letters.

i predict i will blush at the influx memories too embarrasingly juvenile, but i am positive i will enjoy reminiscing every single one of them.