Playing Domesticated

My stomach acids have reacted to something I ate in the office today. I know it was a gesture of goodwill, but nevertheless, the overgreasy empanada seemed to have some disagreeable effects on my constitution.

Did my introduction grab you by the throat? It has nothing to do with the following paragraphs, by the way.

I’m here again, holed up in a favorite cafe, whiling away the time until my mother’s plane lands. She’ll be here for a couple or so days for a conference with some colleagues. The last time we saw each other was more than a month ago when she came when I had the knee operation.

It has got me to thinking. In class, I was taught that living under the same roof — be it thatch, tile, GI sheet or plastic tablecloth — there could be two types of family: the nuclear and the extended one. The former could be recognized by the members who compose the family unit, and it usually just involved the mater, pater, and the spawns. Sorry, the househelp does not qualify; that is how discriminatory those civics and culture subjects were. But as I have no energy for rants about equality rights as of the moment, let’s allow that topic simmer in the backburner for the meantime. Meanwhile, the latter family type, the extended one, is usually composed of the members of the nuclear familia PLUS the smatterings of the relatives – anyone associated with the core people in the house, either through blood (consanguine) or by marriage (affine).

But my ma and I don’t live under the same roof. Haven’t had for, um, since I was sixteen and I hied off to Dumaguete for my B.A. in Anthropology that made me wish I took up dentistry instead. Still, as we share the same blood, we are unquestionably a family.

But…

Mind that although Ta and I have been together for years longer than the years Willie Revillame had been the host of Wowowee, we still haven’t tied the knot — not with Willie but with Ta. And the reasons will take too long to explain in this brief stint in this cafe that, instead, I shall be saving the story for a full-length novel.

In my tropical jungle home, I live with Ta. Sometimes Faith is there with us and we could pretend that she’s our own, then we get to be a nuclear family. Sometimes, too, Ta’s older sister Chuy would be there and she contributes to the pool of funds for the household expenses. So we become an extended family. We have dogs. And cats, over a thousand tilapia fingerlings, and a tribe of chicken lorded over by a mestizo rooster. The odd number of frogs or turtles comes to live with us depending on the food supply that can be had in our yard.

And I consider all of the above my family.

And maybe I am just plain weird. Or immoral. But it depends on who’s reading.

The issue of what is the basis of invoking the bonds of family (ABS-CBN does it unapologetically) bothered me that I looked up the meaning of the word F-A-M-I-L-Y at home, in dictionaries as old as the first edition of the Bible and got the definition as was taught my Mrs. Alcala or Somebody in my civics and culture. But lookit, friends and neighbors, there are some who have noticed the trend of how things are in the new century. Online, The Free Dictionary has this definition of the word that made my heart sing and made me feel that I still belong to the human civilization after all. Quoting definition #1b, a family is

Two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place.

And hey, there is no mention of children of the said people and there is the term “usually.” How apt, how… us.

The commitment thing rings true. And it’s not an easy feat to master, knowing that we both have nothing holding us back, no contracts and no vows made before people, country, and God and we could easily walk away, brush off the memories and separately start new lives somewhere far; each day uncovers the layers of our hidden insecurities and our selfishness and quirks and imperfections but, by sundown, we still want to be together.

There, writing that down clarified things for me.

Let me remind the morality police who might feel like commenting on this topic just now that I am not advocating for people who love each other to just live together under the same roof when they feel like doing so. There are reasons why our situation is such, as of the moment. Read my upcoming novel to understand more. And since it is still in the works, a little openmindedness on your part would not hurt one bit.

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