Reflection # 1

Since I’m stuck at home, waiting for the car repair shop to call me with an estimate on replacing my car’s axle, and I’m getting bored just waiting to see who comes up to our mailbox today (Hubby says to give it up, no one is coming, except perhaps irate father of little kid I tried to shake down yesterday), I’ve decided to go over the boxes of correspondence I’ve stored in my closet, some of which I haven’t opened in decades.

In 1998, I was teaching Creative Writing at my alma mater, Ateneo de Manila, and I saved piles of correspondence from that time. Why? I’m not sure, but perhaps I felt 1998 might be a watershed year for me, the year when I could pretend for just a few months what my life would have been like if I’d stayed in Manila. Anyway, perhaps I was preparing for something to happen — bad or good, I don’t now remember.

Somehow, and I don’t know how this happened, my acceptance letter to the Creative Writing Program at Stanford, dated Mar. 18, 1983 and signed by John L’Heureux (who retired earlier this year), is in the box with my 1998 Ateneo correspondence.

I look and look at it. I’m fascinated to read that, in 1983, eight people were accepted to the Creative Writing Program with full support, I was one of those 8, and the letter says I have been admitted in poetry writing. Hmmm, somehow that little detail escaped me until this moment, 23 years later– šŸ™‚

Will keep digging in this musty old box. Who knows what other discoveries I will make today?

Also, loyal blog reader, do you want to know how many layers of clothing I am wearing today? I am wearing TWO pairs of sweatpants, woolly socks, a T-shirt, a turtleneck, my warmest sweater, and a muffler, and I am still cold. Earlier I went out to the backyard and started pruning the roses, which was nice because the sun felt good. But after my hands got stiff with cold I came back in and settled in my usual spot in son’s room, and looked out at the street. Our whole house is one big draft magnet, it is old (circa 1939) and we’ve never changed the windows to double-pane, or installed a modern heating system, so the entire house is heated by ONE heater outlet, which is in the floor in the middle of our dining room. Things have dropped down that hole: everything from pens to dog hair to photographs, letters, etc. etc., there to be incinerated by pilot flame or to languish forever in the No Man’s Land of the house’s underbelly. Years from now, when we’ve sold this house, someone will open up the floor and replace the old heater. Then they’ll find all the buttons we ever lost, all the coins, all the old toys that son most assuredly dropped down there when he was a naughty toddler. Hmmm …

My Uncanny Luck

I think I must be the luckiest of writers. Because things are always happening to me. I mean, things like petty theft and car accidents. So, on the one hand, my life does not flow smoothly (like a river, murmuring over rocks and other impediments). But I never run out of things to write (or blog) about. So, let’s see what will happen today.

Today I’ll either have seriously depleted my comic routines — routines which by now you must all be so intimately familiar with, loyal blog readers — or something else will happen, something totally unexpected that blows yesterday’s interrogation of the chubby little seven-year-old right out of the water.

Today, for instance, I plan to conduct a sting operation. Affixed prominently to my mailbox is a long white envelope which contains a check. A check of $87 to pay for a consultation (outrageous fee!) to the dentist I saw last month, who gently probed my teeth and then sent me away with nary a prescription, not even for codeine or Vicodin.

So, OK, I admit I won’t be too unhappy if this check never makes it to the dentist (unlike my Christmas cards of yesterday, which contained lovely pictures of A and the dogs!). It is sitting out there now, oh so innocently white and alluring (like Parvati in her skimpy bikinis on Survivor: Cook Islands).

I am stuck at home all day because car is at the repair shop. So this is the perfect opportunity to conduct mailbox stake-out. I wish hubby would install a videocam trained on the porch so I could watch it when I get home at night and see who else (aside from mailman) ascends those three little steps. But now I am my own videocam.

I’m waiting breathlessly in son’s room, which has unobstructed view of porch steps. Gobbling down a supply of chocolates he thoughtfully lugged home from Christmas party in his dorm. Cannot eat anything else, mouth still sore from dental surgery, but chocolates will do fine.

I’m now actually in a very chipper mood. So, mailbox vandalizer, think you can mess with Marianne? Think again.

Go ahead. Make my day. I’m waaaaiting for you!!!

Don’t Hate Me Because You Didn’t Get A Christmas Card From Me This Year

To all my friends who did not get a Christmas card from me this year, I have a perfectly good excuse, one guaranteed to melt even the hardest of hearts:

Your card was stolen.

What? You don’t believe me? It happened today. In fact, less than half an hour ago. While I was just settling back on the couch in front of magnificent flat screen HDTV to enjoy my well-earned ease after having successfully turned in grades at XXXXX community college.

Loyal readers, you know how much the idea of not sending out Christmas cards has caused me much stress and sleepless nights, the past couple of days. So you must believe me when I tell you that this morning, I spent three hours writing cards to my mother-in-law, my cousin in Canada whose card came three weeks ago, my friend in New York, the parents of son’s best friend from Sacred Heart, the friend whose book came out six months ago but who I hadn’t yet gotten around to congratulating, and new friends I made in Norfolk, VA when I was there for the ODU Literary Festival. Truly, Christmas cards are a wonderful way of saying that I have not just rolled over and died, I am here and am awaiting future largesse.

Then, I affixed the cards — 10 of them– to mailbox, and left to submit grades at xxxxx community college.

I was just patting myself on the back for having turned in my xxxxxx community college grades early for once. The Dean saw me and the first question she asked, even before “How are you?” was: “Have you turned in your grades yet?” I was so pleased to be able to answer in the affirmative. So I went home and was just mulling over how I should celebrate (Open a bottle of beer? Too fattening. Buy a lemon meringue pie from Whole Foods? Now there‘s an idea…), when I heard the sound of steps ascending the porch.

Gracie, indefatigable barker, was occupied elsewhere in the backyard. But anyway, I was at home and I heard the steps. Two quick tugs on the mailbox — Man, I thought, the mailman’s in a bad mood today, he’s making so much noise!— and then silence.

So I went out front to collect the mail that the mailman would have left in our box, but our mailbox was empty. Completely empty. Which meant the mail had not yet come, because there is never a day when we don’t get mail, even if it’s just the local real estate agent’s flyers.

Quick as a shot, I flew down the sidewalk. The only person I saw in the vicinity was a KID. A seven or eight-year-old kid. But he was wearing a suspiciously bulky sweater. And, just like that, even though all I was wearing was a thin T-shirt and flip-flops, I gave chase.

Stop! I yelled. Hey, you, kid! Stop!

Naturally, he kept walking. So I leaped into my car, the one with the broken axle, and gave chase. And of course I did catch up with the kid, and here began the most inept third-degree that was probably ever conducted on the planet.

Me: Lift up your shirt.

Kid: Why?

Me: I know what you’re hiding under that sweater. Lift up your shirt!!

Kid: No!

Me: What’s your name?

Kid: I don’t know.

Me: You don’t know your own name?

Kid: Uh, it’s Danny Gutierrez (a pseudonym, for sure!)

Me: Where do you live?

Kid: I don’t know!

Me: You don’t know where you live?

Kid: Uh, on Birch Street.

Me: So why were you walking on my lawn just now?

Kid: I was walking home.

Me: Where is your home?

Kid: I told you, on Birch.

Me: So, what’s your name?

And on and on we went like that, in circles. Finally, I did get him to lift up his sweater AND his shirt and I noticed he had QUITE a belly (Need to exercise more, kid!). Then I thought, what am I doing? I am terrorizing a seven-year-old! Immediately, all my anger collapsed and I told him, “Go on, get lost.”

Which he of course did, happily.

So, it must be some sort of sign, don’t you think? I simply was not meant to send out Christmas cards this year. To those who I did NOT get around to writing today, consider yourselves lucky. Now, am consumed with guilt at the memory of how I coerced hubby and son to write little notes on all the cards last night, how I railed at them that the cards had to go out today and not a day later, how scornful I was of their desire to watch the Survivor: Cook Islands finale (only to see Pavarti in her skimpy little shirts, I thought) rather than to partake of the fulness of the season, which entailed writing Christmas cards to all nearest and dearest. How to tell them that the cards, the fruits of all their hard labor, are not actually beginning their long journey to the Philippines or New York or Virginia, but are actually STUCK somewhere here in Redwood City, probably lying in some gutter or in someone’s backyard. Perhaps some bemused homeowner will pick up the cards, read them, and say, What is this? Why is this garbage littering my lawn?

Of course, I could always blame it on the inefficiencies of the Philippine and U.S. postal systems.


Now is the perfect time for Still Thought # 42 of Sage Master Shih Cheng-Yen: “Rather than a lot of words, say a few words; rather than a few words, say good words.”

And with that, good night.

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