a thousand days of light
a hundred nights of shadow
one hour of joy
Friday, July 17, 2015
This is an image that I have carried in my heart down through the decades that I have lived with and worked with Filipinos. It is my mother holding in her arms a little Filipino boy named "Junjun", the first of several foster children she mothered.
there is a story behind this picture.
I graduated from Grade 12 at the age of 16. My September birthday meant that i began nurses' training before I turned 17. I was very young, and as I worked the wards in the hospital, I became friends with some gentle, fun-loving Filipino nurses. They took me into their hearts and eventually invited me to their home for a meal. I found myself in an old part of the city, walking up 4 flights of stairs to an attic room in a boarding house, and there I discovered 4 or 5 of these girls living all together, cooking their meals on a tiny burner, sleeping on the floor, and the ultimate shock- a little baby boy hidden away up there who had never seen the light of day. Nobody in the house, except my nursing buddies, knew he was there. His mom had been pregnant when she left the Philippines for Canada, and fearing deportation, she had born the baby and somehow kept him secret. They all mothered him in true Asian fashion, and he was healthy and alert, but my heart broke to think he could never go out or play on the grass.
Without even thinking twice, I offered to his mom, Pat, that my own mother would care for him out on our farm, and Pat could come and see him on her days off- it was a 2-hour bus ride for her but she jumped at the offer. At least he would be well-cared for, loved, and free! I took "Junjun" that very day, hopped on a bus with him, and walking into my mom's house I held him out to her and said, "Mom, you have to take care of this baby!"
This is the kind of woman my mother was. She never batted an eye. She held out her arms and cooed, "Ohhh! come here, sweetheart..." and thus she became his other mommy.
And this is the kind of people those precious Filipinos were- they trusted me with "their" baby. I know now, after decades in this culture, that trust is a gift that you earn. Somehow we had crossed that barrier and I had become one of them, thus earning that rare and special gift.
My mother cared for Junjun for several years until his mom was indeed deported. My father too loved this little boy, and Junjun slept beside their bed in a cradle which my dad would rock even in his sleep. After a few years Pat found her way back to Canada again, and she and her little son visited my mother several times and wrote each other for decades. They were true friends.
As I look at this picture and read my mother's soothing body language of comfort, I think it's somehow fitting that both my own daughter and I have cared for generations of Filipino children. I never knew, back then, that I would end up here on these islands, nor that my kids would be raised here, and that my eldest would care for hundreds of orphans.
The gift my mother taught me was unconditional acceptance, trust, and care. And to never ever be shocked when your children bring home lost puppies- or babies.