Once A Year

My parents were running late on the day I arrived at our local airport. Some things never change. They don’t exactly have a stellar track record in punctuality when it comes to my annual airport pick-ups. I used the spare time to prepare myself. I knew the drive going home wasn’t going to be be easy. It was exactly why I only fly back home during the holidays–I’m convinced a long distance relationship is the best kind that works for my parents and I.

They’re going to ask me about my new job, my plans for the future, and unfailingly try to talk me in again into going to law school–all of which I have to respond to calmly without my front of being a fully-functioning adult getting busted.

After 20 minutes, our familiar red SUV came up the driveway, windows down, with Mama and Papa’s faces peeking through them. They didn’t recognize me at first glance. I had my hair colored two weeks earlier, and admittedly gained a few pounds. After 5 seconds, their wandering eyes recognized their daughter whom they’ve last seen 12 months ago. I quickly gave them a peck on the cheek, after which Papa disapprovingly asked, “I didn’t recognize you! What did you do to your hair?”

Alas, I am indeed home.

I always say I never come home the same person. On this occasion though, I didn’t leave the same person too. There is a good reason why nostalgia is both a human weakness and a strength. During my former holiday visits, it came as a weakness as I nursed an overdue mourning over my lost childhood and innocence, a final ditch to save the last few drops of the fountain of youth. This time around, the nostalgia came as a welcome reminder of what and who truly mattered–family.

I am not quite the type to feel homesick and emotionally needy for my family to tuck me in at night. I’ve lived independently for 8 years, and I managed to get through just fine. But when death is reported on a daily basis in your country, the nights tend to drag into a long and lonely continuum of questionable existence. The warmth of having family around these trying times becomes a necessary assurance that there are still some good left in the world.

The 20-minute ride from the airport was long and dreadful. It ranged from small talk to a sermon on job stability to several attempts on dodging the million-dollar question with the latest showbiz gossip. I rolled my eyes a few times, but I understood that I needed that time alone with my parents  – for their persistent nagging on my life choices comes from their good hearts and their leverage of having gone through this road 20 years ahead of me.

We passed through familiar streets, and my high school alma mater. Gradually, the pretenses that had been building up over the years came off one by one. By the time we arrived at our house, the place where I started curating my dreams,  I was myself. There, in the backseat of our car, I returned to my grassroots before everything else happened – once a year, I become just their daughter again.

Three weeks later, Papa sent me off at 4 AM for my return flight. On the way to the airport, we ordered drive-thru and sang to Strangers In The Night. When I was boarding the plane, he sent me a text message saying it was nice having me around during the holidays.

Maybe I cried a little because I knew everything has changed. I promised myself I’d make my parents proud. And the next time I go home, that 20 minute ride from the airport will be nothing short of a wonderful conversation.

Originally posted on http://bayonologues.tumblr.com/post/155678609188/once-a-year

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