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Sudden attack of homesickness

What is it about homesickness that it hits you like a frisbee unexpectedly thrown at your belly and you can’t help but double up and cringe. Homesickness happened 25 minutes ago when I read my niece’s email with photos and videos attached. I am hungry for any correspondence from my old home – from family, friends, relatives. Needless to say, I ravaged my niece’s email while eating my brunch. Just couldn’t wait. Teared up when I saw her message opener, “We miss you.” I choked up, couldn’t swallow morsels of bread left in my mouth, thus pushed my plate aside to focus on the email on my laptop.

Lo and behold! Attached were many pictures and videos of vibrant activity in the garden. I honestly wanted to be there.

My sister, her two daughters and my niece’s boyfriend were busy in the garden in our Los Banos home in Laguna, Philippines. Pictures showed them reaching up to harvest tree-ripened rambutan. I admit, I don’t remember eating rambutan. I keep hearing of how delicious it is. When I’m in the Philippines, it’s usually in the Christmas-New Year holidays, out of season for rambutan.

So, watching my family harvest the fruit from the tall tree was in a way quite enjoyable for me. It was a virtual experience, like I was there in their midst, balancing the long pole and struggling to twist a ripe fruit off its high branch – this while the strong, persistent breeze was stirring the branches of many trees around, and the wind from the nearby low mountain was blowing a distinct, bass-pitched gush. Not to forget was the long bushy black-haired dog, Marley, barking as she spiritedly played in the yard. And there was the young female helper, diligently stalking Marley to see that she doesn’t get into terrible mischief (like biting someone’s pants off the leg, as she did to my brother last year).

Watching all that on the video made me homesick. But that’s OK. I got my fill. I enjoyed the rambutan from a distance, as I spotted my sister gobble up the inside of the fruit and robustly hold up her arm as if to say, here’s a winner! I heard shrieks of delight as some fruit slid to the ground. I surveyed the surroundings and saw the green thatched bahay kubo (hut) at the end of the cobbled walk in the garden. I longed to be sitting on the bench perched on the cool bamboo floor. I longed to be standing beside the mango tree just beside that hut, remembering that in December months when I was there, its branches bowed to the weight of green mangoes in thick clusters. I longed to be resting on the long cement steps halfway from the house to the lower yard, just where the ladies were seated and posing for the camera. The tall bougainvilleas by the fence, especially when in bloom, shelter those steps with their long and overarching branches laden with fiery red flowers. I longed to stand beside the coconut palm trees by the front and side of the house, with their over-reaching slender fronds providing curtain to the wide windows. I longed to sit on the front porch of the house surrounded with blooming calla lilies.

My daughter once said to me, that community in Los Banos looked like Kauai in Hawaii. Yes, I was homesick, not just for that lovely place that seems like arcadian “paradise” – but specially for being with family there. What did it take for me to feel this on a lovely, sunshiny Saturday morning in Palo Alto, CA? Just pictures and videos from my niece. I shall share them with my children and grandson here. Perhaps someday, we, too, shall be pitching that long pole to ripened rambutan on wind-swept branches high above, and snatching them up when they plummet to the grassy slope below. And with eager fingers, squeeze open the red hairy peeling and shove the fruit’s shiny, gummy flesh with seed into our watering mouths. Didn’t I say I hadn’t eaten rambutan? This is all in my imagination, of course.

What does it take for nostalgia or homesickness to hit you? Maybe pictures of yellow-ripe mangoes or papayas – or of white shells and shiny rocks scattered on white sandy beach — or of tall bamboo or coconut trees swaying like dancers in the breeze. Maybe, pictures of family far away. A quick salve – just say you miss them … tell them you love them. Or maybe, take your next vacation there when you get the chance.

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