I Remember

If you wanted to categorize me you’d call me a TCK. A Third Culture Kid.

The funny thing is, it’s a category for people who don’t fit the categories, who don’t fit one culture or another, but are stuck somewhere in between the fresh-water-drinking-taps-wet-leaves of Austria and the sickly-sweet-Jolly-Bee-pasta-and-jackfruit of the Philippines. Then throw in black-city-streets and coloured-playground-pufuleti-Romania and Vancouver-rain-mountain-syrup-Canada and you may have me figured out. Or maybe not. It’s pretty complicated, eh?

Whatever I am, I know I’m made up of memories. And sometimes they come running at me when I don’t expect it; they hit me like a jeepney or a 300-pound moose. So I write poetry. Because what else would I do?

I Remember

I remember the grass under the mango tree
– cut short
unlike the roadside blades
that used to slice at my feet as I walked

I remember dogs crowding on a rooftop
and remember nursing my pup
because we found her on the street
lying by our chainlink door with a bloody elbow

I remember telling her stories when I was sad
– she listened –
and finding a baby bat by the chain
that kept her from getting at our shoes

I remember sunsets on Mindoro
and pebbles bouncing down a mountainside
– my parents said they were boulders
rolling down from Mt. Mayon

I remember taping grey ash
to every single letter we mailed
because it rained down from the sky
and people back “home” didn’t know what that felt like

I remember the whitewashed front porch in Ligao
and finding a baby chicken in the bushes
and climbing the tree with the dangerous nest in it
while all the uniformed kids sang the anthem by the flagpole

I remember slipping in rice-field mud
and crying because my green dress got dirty
while wading through the water
and crossing over a tree and into a village

I remember getting chased by a scary dog
running from shadows
seeing a cobra in the dust
and hearing the Tokko* make noises by my bedroom window

I remember being told to hide under my bed
if anyone ever broke into the house
while my parents were away
– and I heard about those guns stockpiled under the kiosk too

I remember collecting bottlecaps
and saving up Pesos
to buy thin peanut butter cookies
or cheap pop handed out in a plastic bag with a straw

I remember begging my parents to buy me
the local ube**-flavored ice cream
and remember my dad eating balut
almost-hatched duck eggs, a delicacy

I remember sitting in the back of the car
and hitting my head on the roof
because Quirino Highway was bumpy
– filled with more potholes than actual road

I remember sliding down smooth rocks
and putting hibiscus flowers in my hair
or playing with the red blossoms
that could be chained into jewelry

I remember roosters crowing in the morning
and cats eating out leftovers
I remember feeding milk to kittens
and old pasta to Oliver, the grizzled tom who only let me pet him

I remember finding big bugs in our sandbox
and stepping on a giant thorn
and finding an orange spider
that was at least ten centimeters wide

I remember eating jackfruit and banana heart
drinking flavored milk
that came in plastic packages
and feasting on lechon, chicken adobo, and pancit

I remember being scared of the ocean
but playing in it anyways
I remember finding huge shells on the beach
and I remember what swallowing salt water felt like as a kid

I remember the day we found a toad in the toilet
the day I got a rash over my whole body
the day my brother ate a cockroach
the day we accidentally ate carabao*** instead of beef

I remember tuberculosis
and knocking down a stand of bitter green herbs
I remember hole-in-the-ground bathrooms
and how precious fresh water ran out of a hand-operated pump

I remember the weeks we had without electricity
because of typhoons
– seeing the banana palms twist and fall down
seeing streets flood with water and debris

And I remember the day we arrived
ignorant of customs and food
– ignorant of how our lives would play out
just waiting for the silver-blue jeepney to round the corner
and bring us home

M.
Jan 19/16
*technically Tokay, a large nocturnal gecko referred to as “Tokko” because of the sound it makes. It’s bite can be dangerous to children
**a purple-colored type of yam
***water buffalo

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