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Victoria, Silvestre, Clara, Cristina

Led full lives they did, save for dear Lola Vicky
who passed away at 64. But at 17 she was a mother.
And the firstborn daughter, Silvestre, joined a band
at wartime, soothed cowards with her songs, married
well before liberation. Her sister Clara loved the same
man for over a decade, till they saved enough to earn
a home. Cristina was much younger, as half-sister.
Victoria had grieved a while when her husband left her.

We never knew why. As children we were only told
of the carnival whenever it came to town. Or the fiestas
and impending clan reunions. But we knew Lola Vicky
must have had an affair with a military man. That was
how he looked in pictures, with little Cristina between
them and their brief love. The little silent child
was the best child for taking to carnivals and fiestas,
and no one cried at birthdays, weddings, funerals.

Only the grown-ups could weep over chronology
of comings and goings. The men in their lives
who all left them early. The parties they cooked for
without knowing of their common destiny as widows.
Silvestre became Ely, survived the first of the family's
spouses by a good twenty-seven years, raised five
children partly on her own. She catered, she clerked
at the pier. She claimed to deny herself of stevedores.

Like her, Clara had five children, all sent to college,
all turned professional. Now she barely remembers
her grandchildren's names, for after her Ate left
at 77, followed soon after by her husband of nearly
half a century, her heart gave and she went Alzheimer's.
At midnight she says it's Christmas and she should be
at church. She claws at her nurse when she's held back.
One child is in Virginia, USA, a wiz at computers.

Several other cousins are fresh immigrants in L.A.
For Cristina mothered many, and her husband, while
still alive, cannot expect much anymore of his business
of exterminating queen ants from homes and gardens.
Sometimes the young survivors among the generations
get together by themselves. But at New Year's Eve
tradition is observed with gauzy-eyed Clarita and the still
lively Nenita. Everyone pretends not to miss the other Lolas.

© Alfred A. Yuson

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