Sunday, June 1, 2008
All of a sudden it is raining in the afternoons and I have a mountain of books and notebooks to cover. Don't get me wrong. I love plastic wrapping the children's things in the same way that I love carefully printing their names on the sides of their textbooks or rearranging the living room or bedroom furniture every six weeks or so. Odd indeed, it is -- but I'm not writing about my oddities tonight. What I am writing about is my summer, our summer, mine and my kids', that is drawing to a close.
It's our first summer in our modest two storey two bedroom apartment just across their school, which I rent for seven thousand pesos a month and which I furnished gradually over a period of six months. It's just us this time, myself and Bea (14) and Joshua (12) and, on Sunday evenings to Thursday mornings, Sophia (7) and Elmo (5). I am a single mom. I have been separated from their father since July last year.
At least this year I have access to funds predictably enough to enable me to make a financial plan -- and stick to it. That's also a first, and a happy one. Thus I took the liberty of giving the children something to be busy with during their summer break. The smaller ones I enrolled in a Taekwondo class sponsored by Milo. The thrice-a-week summer course is held at the auditorium of the school. The kids look adorable in their oversize white uniforms. I just hope they use the moves they learned to defend themselves from bullies, not against each other when they are fighting over toys or the television remote control.
The big ones I gave music lessons, about which they had been bugging me since September. Bea is doing drums while Joshua takes guitar. I tell them to spread their sessions as far apart as possible – they are enrolled for six – since I will be able to afford the second half of their program in faraway August.
So here's our typical day – a week day, when all four of them are with me, and i don't have to leave the house until 230 in the afternoon to go to the newsroom. I'm up by six thirty and then putter about the house, reveling in my early morning solitude. I make coffee, sit on my swivel chair, put my feet up and watch world news on BBC or CNN. That, or I take out my day planner or make lists of supplies I have to buy or things I have to do. Lists calm me. I like making them and I like, even better, affixing check marks on the underscore at the beginning of each item when I finish a particular task. But I digress.
I realize i won't be alone for long. I make breakfast. Eggs, corned beef, hash browns, pancakes, Lucky Me Pancit Canton. It has to be as generic as possible. Sometimes I feel like making tuyo and sinangag but remember only Bea and I are going to be happy. only Just before I finish, one or a permutation of them comes bouncing down the stairs. It's a good day when a smile is on his or her face. I chirp: “Good morning!” My kids are polite and they “good morning” me back, regardless of how they are feeling. At eight thirty thereabouts everybody is downstairs in front of the television, tuned to GMA 7 and waiting for our favorite show, Doraemon.
It's a Japanese cartoon, and an old one at that. It first appeared in magazines in Japan in 1969, and was a hit all through the 70s and 80s. In 2005, when its creator died, the series likewise ended. I found out that Doraemon, a cat-type robot, was (or would be) created on September 3, 2112 and was (would be) sent back in time by a boy named Sewashi to help his great great grandfather, Nobita Nobi. Doraemon's mission was to save the fourth grader Nobita from the bad luck he creates for himself and his future descendants. See, in the original timeline, Nobita's failures in school and subsequently, his career, have left his family line beset with financial problems.
Doraemon has a four-dimensional pocket on his tummy from which he pulls all sorts of futuristic gadgets to help fix Nobita's mishaps due to his laziness and irresponsibility. The cat robot is taken into Nobita's home and has become more like a best friend who constantly looks out for the boy.
Here in the Philippines, the series is famous, I think, by the voices of the dubbers and the formulaic plots. Doraemon's nasal voice was peculiar because it would prolong each sentence by stressing the last syllable of the last word. I would pretend I was the cat talking to any of the children admonishing them for their little misdeeds.
On the plot, Wikipedia has this to say: They are “usually focused on the everyday struggles of ...Nobita, the protagonist of the story. In a typical chapter, Nobita comes home crying about a problem he faces in school or the local neighborhood. After Nobita's pleading or goading, Doraemon produces a futuristic gadget to help Nobita fix his problem, enact revenge, or flaunt to his friends.
Nobita usually goes too far, despite Doraemon's best intentions, and gets into deeper trouble than before. Sometimes, Nobita's friends, usually Suneo or Jaian (in the local version, he is called Damulag, the big guy) steal the gadgets and end up misusing them. However, by the end of the story, there is usually retribution to the characters who end up misusing them, and a moral lesson is taught.
It's snapshot-worthy, when the five of us are seated there, transfixed on the show, laughing every now and then. The storyline is a no-brainer. The character are one-dimensional, even though Doraemon is cute and cuddly. But it's great because it's the only time of the day we sit down on a common activity. After the show, we go about our own business, and I single-handedly assume the very delicate role of holding everybody together, making sure we remain whole despite all we've been through. There will be no great great grandson sending me a cuddly robot to provide me quick fixes for my follies. There are no Take Twos so I better do it right.