“Mom, are you gonna be like those ladies at that party?”
“You mean those Filipino ladies?”
“Yeah. Those aunties.”
“Why not? They’re so joyful!”
“That’s weird, mom. That’s… embarrassing.”
“Embarrassing for me or for you?”
That’s how a conversation played out with my 12-year-old a few weeks ago while walking home from our neighbor’s party. Our neighbor works at a hospital and invited her Filipino co-workers and friends to their daughter’s first communion party. One of the friends organized games for the party — a few of which were strictly for adults. The “Filipino aunties” cackled and screamed with excitement while happily playing the games. My daughter looked on with a huge smile on her face and I sat there and watched everything in what seemed like slow motion.
“Mom, these games are weird.”
“No, they’re just very… Filipino.”
It really did look like a cheesy Filipino variety/game show. One game had the ladies dancing frantically, trying to get their player to guess a song without singing it within a time limit. Another game had people slinging raw eggs that were hanging off of a string from their waist at each other. It gave me flashbacks of some inappropriate games that were played at church after Simbang Gabi (“Mass at Night” – 9 evening Masses before Christmas) back when I was a tween. I smiled as I thought of the fun those adults had and how I, too, thought they were weird.
Then my mom came to mind…
Mom loves to dance and sing and, quite frankly, doesn’t care too much about what people think of her (to a fault). When she wears her home made high-water pants, clogs with cutoff socks, accessorized with a wide-brimmed, tattered straw sunhat, she unapologetically OWNS it. She puts much more weight on practicality and comfort rather than fashion. She’ll jump into a conga line without hesitation. If there’s a piano, guitar or karaoke machine in the room, mom will be speeding off to it like the “Turrget Lady” on SNL. Mom’s admittedly a “Jill of all trades, master of none” and she likes to have fun while doing it.
So I thought about it: Am I going be like those ladies at that party?
If genetics came to play it is likely that I would. I wouldn’t mind being those carefree “aunties.” At the same time I know that they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They’re caregivers not only to their families but to other people since most of them are nurses. A Filipino mom will make sure your needs are taken care of, whether you’re family or not. They’ll clean the house, whip up a meal, keep tabs on your homework, and form your faith. They make sure you go on the right path and will tug your ear and drag you, kicking and screaming, until you are set in the right direction. Filipino moms won’t sit idly by and take “no” for an answer. They make things happen and don’t give up when faced with adversity. At least that’s what I saw from my mom and my other aunties. It’s no wonder that they let loose when the opportunity arises.
Looking forward to the new year and beyond, I don’t mind the goal of being a bit more joyful— much like a Filipino mom at a party. I know I had “joy” as goal in the past (I’m still a work in progress). But this past year, especially at the retreats that I worked, I saw that joy is a gift to others more than it is a self-serving feeling. Never would I have thought that silly costumes and simple choreography could generate so much laughter that it brought people closer to their faith and formed friendships that could last a lifetime. I would leave that mountain retreat extremely tired, yet on a high, reminiscing on the happiness and love that was so evident that weekend.
It’s quite a contrast to my daily life where I’m running a business, chasing a toddler, shuffling kids to and from school and their activities, volunteering in various capacities, cleaning, cooking, and trying to be a good wife and mom. It’s so hard to find room for joy… but it doesn’t have to be that way. I think of the song, “The Joy of the Lord” by Danielle Rose that borrows from Nehemiah 8:10 and 2 Corinthians 9:7
The Joy of the Lord is our strength.
His love I will deliver.
God loves a cheerful giver.
Maybe I’ll channel my inner Ginger Rogers and dance with the vaccuum or pretend I’m on a cooking show and narrate instructions to my children while preparing dinner. I already sing and play the air drums in the car (much to my kids’ embarrassment) so that’s taken care of. I may not be a comedienne but I can sure find a way to have a good time and make people smile.
So, my dear daughter, I will be like those ladies at the party. Embarrassing and all. And you’re going to like it and appreciate it… maybe when you’re older.