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The light from outside came beckoning to me in playful sheets, blinding my vision. The younger me wondered where everyone was as the emptiness of the house hung on to me like a baggy tee-shirt. Then with my six-year old hand, I reached out to the screen door, yanking it with a definite screech from inside the house. It opened after a forceful tug and I stepped outside, feeling the hard wood of the patio floor beneath my bare feet. Taking a moment, I closed the door behind me and breathed in the fresh air filled with the scent of wood. My eyes adjusted to the sharp change until I could finally see landscape in front of me: the women of my life in my grandparent’s backyard.
More or less, their backyard was their own contained jungle. Trees grew without much restraint. Flowers grew with much encouragement. And fruits adorned the leaves of the trees, better than any jeweled ornaments. A wooden patio of a deep burgundy color connected the opening of the screen door to the backyard. A small garden lay at the far left side of the layout, bearing much fresh produce over the prolific dirt.
Under the shade of the patio sat three women, chatting aimlessly amongst each other. With the bliss of the afternoon eager to bind them together, their benevolence stretched out over the gaps of three generations past incredible lengths. They peered over at each other from across the table overflowing with books, spine-cracked and well-loved. Their hand gestures became more ardently elaborate as their conversation reached the high point of delightful laughter.
I did not want to interrupt their grown-up talk, but my presence became inevitably known. Turning to me, I saw each of the faces of the women in my life: my mother, my grandmother, and then my great-grandmother whom we referred to by the Tagalog name for grandma –Lola- out of habit.
To me, they were all beautiful and one could see the hint of resemblance that had been passed on as a gift throughout the ages. My mom had long, black hair that framed her pristine face. Round, deep caramel eyes, that made you want to believe in yourself, widened with raised eyebrows. Youth still gleamed on her smooth, unmarked skin.
My grandmother sat across from her. Her bright, observant eyes followed me from behind her glasses, making me feel warmer than the late spring day. She had a kind, soft mouth that was usually half-way open to offering me a snack or to plant a happy kiss upon my cheek whenever we came to visit.
Next to her sat my Lola. White, cottony hair pluming from her head into tight curls, she too wore glasses. Her eyes held temperance, but they also contained the fierce will behind her black pupils for anyone who dismissed her as just a gentle old lady.
They had stopped their laughter by the time I had made my way to the table and by then, my grandma was already almost done with peeling an orange for me. I had hoped that they would continue talking as if I was not here, but I knew that they would not. As always, they made the smooth transition from English to Tagalog, confident in the fact that I would not be able to understand them. But it was well enough; I got the pure pleasure of seeing their expressions that I could guess what they said.
Settling into one of the cushioned green lawn chairs, I took a segment of the orange once my grandma handed it to me –ripe and perfectly free of any trace of orange skin. I kept my eyes careful of any small variations in their faces though it was not difficult; these women could not hide their emotions so easily.
Their expressions varied from secretive to shock to delight once again. It was a dance on their soft features. I didn’t understand a word that they were saying, but I watched, and that was enough.
I ate my orange quietly, absorbing the conversation past the language barrier. All that I seemed to comprehend was the fact that they were happy. They reveled in each other’s presence, making their beings together far better than when they were alone. Dependence upon each other was absolutely key in this triangle. They balanced each other out until they were completely molded as one.
One day, I would be able to understand the deep level of commitment and understanding between these three women. One day, I hoped that I would be able to join this triangle, forming it into a perfect rhombus. But for now, I was happy to watch and to learn.
“Masarap?” My lola asked in her rich Tagalog accent, referring to the juicy orange that was now long gone. I had to agree with her. The orange had been a delicious treat, but to me, this moment in time and this sudden euphoria had been of a much sweeter taste.