I have an ambivalent attitude about my childhood. There are memories that leave a hint of smile while some glimpse I view with remorse.
There used to be a storage house in our backyard; the roof I used to climb so I can be be left in peace, find solitude in the midst of screaming children getting charged from the momentary freedom from school. I would spend the afternoon in the comfort of the cold steel roof underneath; the lush leaves of the mango tree served as a screen from the heat of the summer sun, with a tattered copy of Les Miserables from a neighbor's garbage pile. I have always associated those hot summer noons as a marked fragment of my childhood, salient and earnest. It was how I wanted my childhood to be remembered.
To say that I yearn for my childhood is an overstatement; to say I detest it is a hyperbole. I have an equal share of nostalgia of playing patintero with only the full moon as the guide; going to the nearest creek with friends who knew how to swim just so I could paddle my feet against the cool of the rushing water; playing fantasy power ranger/ghost fighter with wooden sticks and kitchenwares as weapons; making excuses not to go to church just so I wouldn't miss the Sunday morning cartoon shows; creating lousy bubbles from crushed gumamela flowers; getting chased by a pack of dogs.
I am often struck with how much memories of those younger days I can still remember. I recall getting my first copy of the unabridged Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale book, where the little mermaid did not get the man of her dreams, rather dissolved into air and how ostracized I felt when my playmates won't trust my early take on literary criticism.
But then, children's literature is always taken with a pack of sugar. Some things become bitter as one grows up. I realized, the games played weren't always fascinating since my lousy eye-hand coordination made the team lose, much to despair and annoyance of Salome who has captured the enemy's base for the tenth time; the creek wasn't always pleasant to those who could not swim; make believe worlds were often crushed by wounded knees, betrayals, and friends turned enemies for life; cartoon shows were filled with lives I cannot live because our parents would get angry if we didn't get to read the assigned pages in the encyclopedia for the day; the neighbors shouting, cursing for picking the best gumamela in her garden.
The last time I went home, I walked over to the vacant lot we used to go and play. There were still a lot of kids there, sons and daughters of those who I have probably played house with. I found myself suddenly jealous of the time when things were as simple as running in the fields, catching dragonflies, and the slow and deep breathes in between. There was no hope, and there was no regret. There were just me and the little world we played in. I was once one of those kids. And someday, one of those kids will probably be in the same shoe I am now, miserable, too critical of even my own happiness.
But for now they have the disheveled playground, the rusty meat loaf can for tumbang preso, the wind brushing through the gaps between their fingers, the sloppy necklace made from santan flowers. Those are enough. Because the curse of being a grown-up is not actually about losing the carefree days of the past but finding out that some things you thought you knew was so completely different from what you had always believed in.