On my way to work this week I noticed the gorgeous colours of the leaves in my local square. I must admit I do miss witnessing the leaves change colour in New York. Autumn always reminds me of two things: New York and my grandmother.
So, my grandmother passed away earlier this year.
The ceremony was epic to Western society standards but the norm to Filipinos. Even before the funeral, her body was on display in a coffin at her house for three weeks. (According to my mother, that’s a short period of time. Others choose to the viewing period for months). Visitors came every evening for a praying and singing session. On the day of the funeral, we were led by a marching band, as we walked behind the hearse from the house to the church. The whole town came by to show their respect. Apparently she was quite popular – for example, she’d go to the local market and wouldn’t come back for hours as she’d speak to every single person there.
And although I was surrounded by my family, it was all so foreign to me. I was born and raised in the US and my parents never taught me Tagalog (or their respective dialects. Did you know there are over 100 different dialects spoken in The Philippines and not one are related to one another?) The few times I did see Lola, cuddles from her was just enough. But as I got older, I must admit, I was envious of my cousins who shared their memories with her and the stories she told them as they were able to converse and understand with her. I didn’t even know she was called Lola Tang – my mother confirmed that “Tang” was her nickname. She was always just Lola to me.**
But something like that made me feel so far removed from them. Language and cultural barriers are quite the roadblock.
But the one thing I will treasure is the song, Autumn Leaves. When I was little, my mother was listening to the song, and she told me that it was Lola’s favourite song. I always wondered if it reminded her of Lolo. My grandfather passed away in his early 40’s. My mother was around 14 at the time. And Lola didn’t marry again. But I did (and still do) imagine them dancing to this song. Or her singing along to the song throughout the day while while cooking or weaving baskets with her children.
Even though I don’t really believe in Heaven, I’d like to think that Lolo and Lola are dancing to Autumn Leaves once again. It’s a lovely reminder every time the leaves change.
* Lola means grandma in Tagalog. That’s why I always find it a bit funny whenever I meet someone named Lola (who clearly isn’t a grandmother).
** Great aunts and great uncles are referred to my grandmothers and grandfathers as well. So my other lolas are Lola Inday, Lola Pining, etc. I’ve a huge family back in the Motherland.