Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving: Year V

Today is my fifth American Thanksgiving and I still feel like Alice in a Mad Tea Party whenever I am confronted with the lavish spread of turkey, yams, cornbread and stuffing. Despite enough said about the Indians and the Pilgrims, I still cannot relate. I imagine that on a day dedicated to Thanksgiving, people would serve the kind of food that had a more palatable variety other than turkey (am not a fan), cornbread, pumpkin pie and matzo balls (wooops, wrong holiday!). I imagine that on a day called Thanksgiving, people would reflect on the true meaning of the day, of giving gratitude for the blessings in their lives and not have to rant or gossip or whine.

And so for me, after having acknowledged that this is a holiday I do not necessarily need to be part of, I celebrate the long weekend in some other way. Last year I went off to Boston with my friends and partied until 3AM at Faneuil Hall. This year, my sister who decided to surprise me with a visit woke up early and took the subway to Central Park South where we watched under-inflated and low-flying giant balloons challenge the gusty autumn winds. It was emotionally traumatic to watch Uncle Sam plummet to the ground but I think after bingeing on sushi and tempura at Minado’s eat-all-you-can for lunch, we were pretty much recovered. We walked through Central Park and strolled through damp fallen autumn leaves that littered the paths. And when she finally allowed me take a picture of her next to the notoriously expensive horse drawn carriages at the park, the horse decided it was time to pee.

Certainly something to be grateful for is a blessed life. Gigi always reminds us that we – Francis, her and I (in chronological order) have a charmed life, a gift to always rise above the challenges and to breeze through the tough times. It is as though we have a direct line to the heavens whenever misfortune strikes. Of course we have our share of ups and downs but the dips are never too low that we lose sight of the rainbows. To start, we were raised by a set of loving parents whose depth of understanding and coolness were immense blessings to us as kids growing up and helped shaped us to be pathologically self-centered individuals that we are...

This year my Thanksgiving has a bigger meaning. Twenty one years ago today, I had a beautiful baby we named Nicole. She grew up to become one of the most intelligent, smart and level-headed woman I have ever met. She has the face of an angel, the eyes that can read your soul and the smile that can thaw the arctic. She is a gifted writer who had just earned the co-editorship of her school paper; she is the spoiled unspoilt child who is wiser in her years than I had ever been. She is well-traveled even when she was barely 10 years old and whose accomplishments have been far greater than what my siblings and I had collectively when we were her age. She is the sweet child that makes every other success in my life just a far second. She is my darling and forever will be the baby I cradled in my arms.

Today is my perfect Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, I leave for Europe.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Countdown to Europe

So it becomes final: I will be travelling to Europe 3 weeks from now. I will leave in time for the extended Thanksgiving Day weekend and will be touring for about 10 days.

With my complicated itinerary I have decided not to bring my notebook so most of my uploads will be depedent on the temperament of my friend's computer. I will be bringing my camera of course (it is with me everyday anyway - so what else is new?). Hopefully I will be able to upload pictures often enough that I wouldn't get paranoid about accidentally deleting the images en route from one destination to another or on the way home.

I will mostly be roaming France, staying in Lyon a few days and then taking the TGV to Paris and then a very brief visit to a family friend in the Loire Valley. An old acquaintance has invited me to cross the border to Switzerland to see him and other friends in Zurich but with 6 hours each way via the Eurail, I have no choice but to turn down the invite with a promise to try to visit another time (Spring 2006?).

I have had friends email me today about the riots in Paris and were concerned about my safety. I consoled them that if the riots find its way to any of the cities in my itinerary and it would really be insane to proceed then I can always cross the border to Italy and change my plans. Everything is just a few hours away with the convenience of the Eurail anyway.

But I would have to see Paris. I have already bought for Joy her 'Hi-Ro' cookies and I have enough to make any customs officer to be suspicious of my unusual 'baon'. I have planned to see the Sacre Coeure, walk the promenade near the Champs Elysees and hope to be proposed to at the Tour Eiffel by some handsome French man who will sweep me off my feet (ngek..di na original) - hehehehe.

Geneva is also just two hours via the train north of Lyon. It would be grand to be able to get off the train station and just walk the Jardin Anglais and view the Jet d'eau from the stretch of the Promenade du Lac facing the Rade de Geneve.

Like Lyon, Geneva also has a very rustic Old Town with cobblestone streets and rich in history and culture. There is so much to do and see that I have accepted the fact that I will literally just be breezing through many beautiful places and will miss a lot more than I will see. Still it is a wonderful adventure and I am overwhelmingly excited.

The trip would be the same time when my daughter celebrates her birthday. Of course, I know the adventure would be much more enjoyable if she could be with me but she has school and whilst in the midst of her thesis preparation and overwhelmed by the responsibilities as acting Literary Editor for their school paper, there is just no justification to pull her out of school for two weeks.

She will also have her chance to see the world. She is young and has a bright future ahead of her. Already much travelled at her age, she has the wanderlust in her, too. There is just so much to experience when travelling that cannot be learned in school or by reading. The smells, the views, being immersed in the culture, colors and flavors of a new location has no equal.

I will try continue to blog while I am away but mostly by long-hand to a notebook with lines instead of a screen and a keyboard. When I return home to New York then I will share them with you.

Pick me. Choose me. Love me

That was from ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" episode a few weeks ago when intern Meredith Grey desperately asked the handsome Dr. Derek Shepherd to choose her over his returning repentant adulteress wife.

It may sound melodratic but I realized that it does hit a common spot for any human being - the need to be needed.

We all yearn to be loved. We all need to know that there is someone on this earth who is our soulmate, who the Ying to our Yang. Being in love is such a wonderful feeling that anyone experiencing the excitement of a new romance exudes the radiant glow of happiness and has a twinkle in their eyes. People in love have a sing song kind of tone in their voices, and laughter is easy to come by. The world is a friendlier place when there is someone to weather the storms shoulder to shoulder with. Ah, all the many ways to describe the perfect love and yet such an elusive myth, this love.

In turn those who gamble shamelessly and jump head first into the depths of its passion tend to come out bruised and maimed. Very few have come out of it unscathed and they will tell you that it is only because they have mastered the art of distorting reality to suit the shape of romance.

It is a game I have played since I learned about love - in Grade 3 when Noel Ramos handed me my first Valentine's Day card in the schoolbus. It was a beautiful feeling until he eventually outgrew me before I outgrew him in Grade 4 so I ended up debuting into the pangs of a broken heart. And boy, was that was painful! I discovered that they called it broken heart because it felt hollow exactly where the heart is.

I survived my 'Noel Ramos syndrome' but was badly scarred for life. I have never really opened up to anyone enough to make them feel like I reciprocated their feelings fully. I always made sure that something else was my life priority - not seeking a husband or marriage. To most, I probably earned the title of being the sarcastic unfeeling witch who drained the love and life out of them.

I am now with someone who may turn out to be smarter than any of my past casualties. He is consistent about his feelings and ignores my mumbling doubts about the viability of what I had labelled our 'impossible relationship'. He is painfully honest about his feelings. He jolts me with admissions that he doesn't ask me questions because he fears it would open conflicts that would be difficult to resolve. And yet when we have time to linger on the telephone we dip our hands into the dirt and grime of our insecurities and disrobe our souls to each other. It is an uplifting feeling - to be honest with someone and to know that you are still accepted, loved, chosen.

Old dogs are hard to teach new tricks, however. I am still not comfortable about completely surrendering my heart and soul to someone for fear I would subject myself to hurt. In my head I create back-up scenarios of what to do in case one day I will find myself without him.

Deep inside I want this, I want him and I want what we have to last so badly I know I would just as well die if I lost something so beautiful this time around. How easy to say the words now but he will probably never hear it from me ever. My insecurities overwhelm me that what I have to offer may not be enough and that there is always the constant fear that he will find someone else who is prettier, taller, smarter, slimmer and more perfect. I am comforted by his love day to day, praying that he will continue to see me as he does - my flaws somehow invisible until forever.

Silently I am screaming: pick me, choose me, love me.