My heart was bursting with joy when I visited England, particularly Fleet, Hampshire for the first time. It has been more than ten (10) years since I last saw my sister Lori. At that time, my Ate only had one lovely daughter and now, she has three beautiful kids.
I arrived in Heathrow airport, got a cab and travelled for about 40 minutes to her place. The driver was friendly. We had a nice chat about the weather, being in England, etc. but for the most part we’re quiet, as I took in all the views around me as I was getting nearer and nearer my Ate’s place.
I arrived at my Ate’s house, situated in a charming neighborhood. Several meters afar, I saw my sister standing by her front door expectantly waiting for me. We hugged as soon as I got off.
Since my stay was but four short days, I didn’t rest on my first day. It’s just a two-hour trip from Paris after all. The entire time, I played board games with my niece and nephews, walked around the neighborhood, visited the park, and accompanied my sister in bringing the kids to school. I also read books and watched movies before sleeping. During the days the kids were in school, Ate and I talked about many things, including our childhood and life back in Albay and in Manila. What was amazing was that in some of our common childhood memories and student years, there were some details that I noticed but my Ate didn’t, and vice versa. It was like adding some pieces to a puzzle. A few times, we called our mom and siblings, who were in Manila.
We also reminisced about our UP days, our meals at McDo Philcoa that at that time meant we were celebrating a small achievement, our UP Parish Choir days, our dormitory stay, and the music jams we had in our boarding house in UP where we played the guitar and sang songs by Eraserheads, and other artists. Our talks strayed to some difficult years after our college graduation, to our early jobs, and to my first few years as a young mother. We marveled at how we managed to triumph over our struggles then.
My Ate cooks so well that all the four days I was there, I was in for a treat of her gourmet skills. I helped her in the kitchen every now and then, but it was only to wash the vegetables and fruits, peel the potatoes and carrots, slice the bell pepper, and wash the dishes. Haha! I also told her that every meal is a feast compared to my fare in Paris, where my breakfast is just usually a cup of hot café au lait with a slice of bread, lunch in the office of processed food heated in the microwave oven, and dinner, anything I could nibble on, or when I felt like cooking or was hungry, a quick tuna/basilic/pesto pasta. Occasionally though, I would try a new restaurant or café on my own, or share a meal with my work colleagues.
The weather in England was generally gloomy. It was rainy and dreary. That’s why we were elated when the sun showed itself on the day we planned to go to the park.
On the way back to the airport, I was sad but my heart was full with beautiful memories of our talks, our walks, of my pamangkins calling me Tita Emi, of the delicious smell wafting from the kitchen, and of the sumptuous meals I shared with my Ate and the kids. That’s why when the cab driver, on the way to Heathrow airport, asked me if I liked England, I said yes with a big smile. He remarked that the weather is always gloomy, but I told him I don’t mind at all.