I was suppose to write a story of my childhood lent but I ended up remembering my grandparents.
They lived a simple life, never pretending to be any richer than they were. They were not perfect, yet they were welcoming to their neighbors and to complete strangers. Despite all hardships they must have endured, they were full of love.
In that corner of the world, years ago people usually busy themselves as early as dawn. They are woken by the loud siren of the coming train, the whole house shook as it passed by. Slowly, you will hear the rustling of leaves as my grandmother sweeps the surroundings as quielty as she can.
My grandfather will pretend to reluctantly open the store as a regular customer knocks on the wooden window shutters to buy a cigarette stick.
In a few more minutes you will hear murmurings of people excited for the day. The smell of sweet black coffee wafting through the morning air. Roosters will start to crow and more men will crowd my grandparent’s store.
Back then, it was an active crossing where the railroad brings news and merchandise from neighboring towns.
Jeepneys also pass by the dirt road right in front of the store and although it brings a billowing dust into the house it brings life to the whole little community where my grandparents house sits comfortably right in the middle of everything.
People come to the store all the time. Some buy little things and leave while some stay to chat while waiting for a jeepney or a trolley. And some even leave behind sacks of merchandise for someone else’s pick up.
Our grandparents house is like a very important vein in the community – at least that is how I felt. There were no televisions then and only a wooden radio was around for entertainment but my gramdparents never seem to mind, life was entertaining enough.
Back then, electricity was rare and only the rich can afford to buy a generator and a steady supply of petrol. For most, life begins as early as the morning light and quiets down slowly together with the setting sun. Houses are dimly lit by gas lamps and excited whispers are turned into hush voices.
Sometimes, especially when there are new commers, we will hear stories of ghosts and other dark creatures. How they thrive in this place because houses are far apart and darkness envelopes houses when the lamps are turned off.
Aside from horror stories, nights seem as normal as it gets. But there are some nights that seem a bit nerve racking than usual. That time they closed the store earlier than usual but opened one window when there was a knock. We were told not to go to the store front that night and only my grandfather did the business.
I never really knew why everyone was tensed but I did hear a rumor the next day that some of the rebels went down that night.
They were never the rich merchant or the haciendero type but they enjoyed the role they play in the community. Every now and then, there is a sense of danger lurking, whether real or not, and it is enough for their gentle hearts.
A community without electricity or even running water sounds like a real nightmare to most young people, including me. As much as I love my grandparents , I can only stay a maximum of three days in their house. Two of those days spent unpacking and packing again.
That was decades ago. I have no photos to show but these memories are etched in my mind. Now, I feel like I owe it to my grandparents’ to write about that time in their lives, in our lives. A time when they were present. Before my memory fades. Before everything else is erased by time.
Modern life slowly crept in. Running water supply is still scarce and celphone signals still problematic (never mind the Internet).
Houses are now lit with bulbs and young people loiter about even at night. Old songs still play from time to time but they never seem to sound the same as when they were when played from a wooden radio.
Trains seldom pass and trolleys are almost a thing of the past. The road is now cemented inches above the store front bringing more dust than before.
The house too is different now.
Slowly people stop coming by the store as it was not the main road anymore. Old friends and acquitances leave and new habits in the community are formed.
The town slowly changes and the people age. Like everything else they come and go.
That place was part of my childhood story as much as it was my mom’s, her siblings, and my cousins. More importantly, that place was where my grandparents grew old together through all the good and the bad. They survived deaths of several of their children. My grandmother spent her last years there as well, refusing to live with any of her children. Refusing to leave a house she and her husband loved dearly. It was a simple house in a small community but at that time, it was full of vibrant togetherness and love.
Life may seem long and hard at times. We may differ from each other’s lifestyles, goals and values but, like everything, it all ends somewhere. My grandparents may have lived a simple life but I think they had answered well to a grand calling. I think they will be happy to know that they left behind children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who are all living each day simply with renewed hope, an open heart and unwavering faith in God, just like they did.