A very busy day at work had left her starving, and she found herself in need of sugar refill. She went to a donut store. It was rush hour and as expected, half the home-bound creatures decided to let the time past at the local mall. It’s always better than getting caught in the traffic jam.
Her sweet tooth said everything was enchanting, but what caught her attention were the two pre-teen kids at the adjacent table. The delightful sight, however, was cut short by a shrill youngster’s voice. “Yuck! That’s dirty!” echoed a girl’s voice as the half-eaten donut fell on the floor. Another girl’s saddened face was obvious. Lots of regrets, perhaps, with the consequences of playing as one eats.
There had been a series of indistinct dialogues from that table.
“Oh, yeah, teenagers these days” her friend uttered jokingly as she tapped her shoulder. That’s when she realized she was lost for a moment.
With that quick moment of unconscious staring directed at the two girls, she was able to time travel to more than a decade back.
She was on the fourth grade when she first tasted Dunkin’ Donuts. In fact, she remembered feeling overjoyed seeing the colorful buns; trying every flavor there was! That was one of the most delicious stuff she had ever tasted.
Her father brought home a plastic bag half-full of these treats earlier that day, so she decided to take some to school. Carried away by her innocent pleasures, she opened her striped plastic bag during the break and ate with all delight, enjoying every bite. She brought four donuts of different flavors but since she couldn’t eat everything, it was meant to be shared with her closest friends.
“It tastes different. Did your mom reheat this?” A friend (who happens to become a doctor) asked as she kept on with the feast and noticed a mark. Of course she could tell the difference. She was born to a good family with her father being a college dean at that time, and half the family members being doctors.
“Of course they did! Don’t you know where it came from?!” A classmate who happened to live in the same neighborhood interrupted while she was explaining why the donuts have these marks from the grill.
Everybody stared back at their direction. The tears were all ready to fall as everyone in the class gave her those scrutinizing looks. A friend stood up to her defense, and another one devoured the donuts as if she never heard anything. She has never felt that humiliated.
Her school has a fine reputation being the first public primary school in the country. It has produced numerous public figures, and standards are held high. Being in the star section, her classmates, whose parents are mostly professionals, always had the best- notebooks, art materials, and things she never had in her life.
Every single day started or ended with the stories of “who got what”. She hardly ever participated in these discussions. She realized, early on, that she had nothing interesting to share. They didn’t even have an electric connection or a television at home.
Her two her best friends, now a doctor and a humanitarian worker, would always bring extra materials for her or would invite her to their house to share their stuff. But in most cases, lacking self-esteem, she would choose to miss classes, and not have activities for submission. She had had used every single alibi to stay home. For someone who was almost an outcast, what else mattered?
All throughout the year, she would continually asked herself what she got to compete with these kids. Of course, added to this was the existence of mean girls and a number of telescopic eyes who would love her for sharing her answers in the tests.
The day of the donut incident may be one of the funniest experiences her classmates, but for her, it was one of the luckiest. With her mother being a plain housewife, at times a laundry woman, and her father being a garbage collector, socially and economically, she was too far behind from the rest of the class. Unlike many of her classmates, she walked to and fro the school four times a day, regardless of the weather, having to take her shoes off during high tide. Most of the time, the high tide wasn’t a problem for her slipper-clad toes. On those lucky days, when her bestfriend’s dad picked her up, he would nudge her to tag along and drop her home.
For a couple of years, she would asked herself what she can prove to those sons and daughters of engineers, military official, teachers, government employees. She always had nothing to say except that they befriended her so they could take a peek at her answers.
Having four children in her family was a big challenge. Sometimes, they got through the day without a serving of rice. There were instances when the only way to alleviate hunger was to dissolve a teaspoon of coffee in a glass of tap water. The donuts her father had luckily found from the discarded stocks of Dunkin’ Donuts were the same things they had for the two meals that day. It was the same case in times they had plenty of chicken or pork.
For others who could afford to buy, it was such a disgust, but for her starving stomach, it meant a day with something to digest. They’d been extremely lucky to have a decent meal. If it’s not dried fish, then it would be a big bowl of noodles that’s to be paired with rice. Her mother had been notorious for her never-ending credit list at the nearby stores.
After what happened, despite her bestfriends being on her side at all times, she never brought donuts to school.
The experience just got worst when she was on the sixth grade. Entering her teenage years, she realized that her classmates wore camisoles but she couldn’t. That was another cause of ridicule. One day, one of the boys had dropped the flower vase on the teacher’s table while she was sweeping the floor. When the teacher asked who did it, the boys, despite knowing they did it, told the teacher maybe it was her. That made her start to skip classes and almost got dropped. Luckily, her class adviser was very understanding that she even requested one of her teachers to drop by their house to see what’s going on.
Upon discovering, she was hit hard by her brother. She remembered asking her mother why on earth she needed to suffer those things; that people needed to laugh at her life and get belittled. The mother who couldn’t believe what she heard, hugged her tightly and said, “That’s why, you needed to go to school, so you will have the opportunity to make your life better. Do not be like us. Work hard to overcome all the obstacles. You are brilliant. I never taught you to read and write at three just to think that way. Prove you are not stupid.”
That line started to echo in her mind every time she was on the brink of giving up.
It was their lifestyle that made people in the neighborhood frown. It continued even until her sister got into a private university with a scholarship, and later getting a part time job and started helping out. Her brothers needed to skip classes and drove a pedicab to earn some pennies. For her, it would involve helping her mother packed banana brittle in the nearby shop.
Life can be a tease or a test.
Those experiences had brought in challenges and opportunities. Born and raised in an indigent family caused her to lean through hard work, having life at the bottom. There’s no way to go but up, they said. Luckily, or maybe to others in the neighborhood, miraculously, all four children in the family were able to go to college. She remembered, at one point, telling her mother that she would do her best to compensate for the lack of education they had.
The day she saw the children in the donut store had her wander in the distant past. It had reminded her of the childhood that shaped who she is, the friends who stayed true no matter what, and the challenges she never thought would only make her resistant to hardships.
She can never forget the days, and promised never to dwell or even drop by there again, ever. She had her share of the worst and she pulled her self up.
The voice that stopped the kid from picking up the bun on the floor had reminded her how those classmates reacted the day she brought the donuts to school. It broke her heart and taught her a lot about reality.
Now, every time she passes by a donut store, she couldn’t help but wonder how things had been if those rejected buns never reached home and fed her. Would she even be who she is today?
Strange as it may be, but she would always say, teary-eyed, that indeed, people can never be truly appreciative of life’s little things when it came as something automatic.
Trash. For others they may be useless. For some, it’s life, survival, and the very thing that can keep the faith in the future going.
This is an updated version of my 10-year old autobiography which I wrote when I was a blogging newbie and is originally published on my first blog.
I miss writing creatively,and was in the mood to rewrite in the third person point of view.
Last week, I saw my mother teary eyed in the corner, and I was wondering what she was up to only to find out that she scanned the first pages of my master’s thesis and saw I have written a dedication for her and tatay. I have always told them I will make them proud, and it is just so sad my father isn’t around anymore to see what I have achieved for him and nana.