The Thing About Birthdays

My parents were never big on celebrating birthdays with parties. I can’t really explain it, and to be perfectly honest, it never occurred to me to ask them why. In later years I assumed it was an attitude that resulted from the war, but neither one of them grew up with the tradition of big birthday parties. Consequently, this is how I raised my daughter as well, giving her a choice of party or trip. Since my birthday is in July, it always landed during summer holidays, when everyone I would have invited was gone fur summer anyway, or we…

The First Man In My Life

He was there when I emerged into the world for the very first time. He stood by my mother in tears and held her hand in desperation and anger when they realised their firstborn had severe birth defects. He bullied the nurses in the hospital when they were late with my feeding bottle. He would leave work every day at 4:00pm on the dot to take his little girl to the beach. He taught me how to pet dogs and love cats. He showed me how to fold a viable paper plane  and construct stable Lego towers. He reminded me…

The Sexy Window Cleaner

Much as I wish I could write about a gorgeous human window cleaner, I must disappoint some of you and tell you all about my new gadget. Being the daughter of an engineer, I love gadgets as much as the next person, especially if they will make my life easier and the household chores a more pleasurable experience. Window cleaning is my least favourite chore and it is something that I procrastinate as much as possible. In India, Bangkok and the Philippines I always had someone to do the windows for me, but here in Germany it’s an unpleasant solo…

Post-Valentine Sour Grapes

I grew up celebrating Valentine’s Day in full force – both in Mexico and Manila. My parents were both avid believers of the holiday, even though Daddy was not that much of a fan of buying flowers, something Mommy always wished he had done more. There was one year he came home and handed her a peculiar bouquet of hand-picked flowers which she immediately recognised as being from her garden. He first got a scolding and then a kiss that year. Chocolates were something Daddy would buy in copious quantities in spite of his diabetes, simply because he got to…

What Do You Mean January Is Almost Over?

I don’t like looking back, but there is an old and very wise saying in the Philippines that says Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan (he who does not look back to where he came from will never reach his destination). It took me years to makes sense of that because I found myself in constant motion, moving from one place to another, never having the opportunity to set down any roots. And I see it now among many friends and acquaintances in their 60s and 70s who have reached the age of reckoning, realising…

Comfort Smells

In a recent conversation with my daughter we talked about what textures or sounds bring us comfort or sooth us on stormy days. For her it is this artistic or therapeutic slime, which I find totally gross and can’t stand the sight or sound of. But she finds it relaxing and can watch one slime video after another. The effect on me is quite the opposite and sends me out of the room. When asked why I react so violently to it, I explained that to me I will always associate the sound of kneading slime to squishy cow dung…

Prague Diary: Wounds and Scars

First comes the wound, then the bleeding, shortly thereafter the pain surfaces, and then we have to make a choice. Do you leave it open to heal on its own, leaving yourself vulnerable to infection and complications? Or do you put a bandage over it and keep going, regardless of how the wound develops? Or do you do the sensible thing and have it seen by a doctor? For years I was the second type, believing in psychological and spiritual bandages that held me together but never really addressed the problem. This therefore meant that I became a walking time…