Some of my early memories of summer date back to the late 60s when my parents, sisters and I lived in the lower apartment of an old Victorian house in a blue-collar Connecticut town. Dad studied at UConn. We had his school friends over for dinner sometimes, or other times we invited people from church, or Filipinos passing through the east coast. If the guests had children, my sisters and I would play with them out in the yard after dinner. Fireflies were a common sight, flitting among the lilac blossoms that filled the dusk air with their thick, overly sweet fragrance. It felt like we had forever to play. There was no rush, no hurry. The half-hearted games of frozen tag and kick-the-can were complex, layered with teasing, affection, and subliminal struggles for playground authority.
We all knew the real action, the stage to keep an eye on, was unfolding on the front porch. Mom and Dad stood in the doorway, laughing with the guests who usually held makeshift containers of leftovers from our meal. The adults formed an uneven circle on the front porch. "Saying Goodbye." We kids kept our ears tuned to their voices, rising and falling as we ran and dodged about the yard, tagging each other and calling out impromptu rules. What did they talk about as they stood there, shifting from one foot to the other? Why couldn't they sit inside and talk until it was time to depart and then just go? Or couldn't they have another cup of coffee apiece as they stood and exchanged parting words? The talk on the porch seemed hardly desultory; conclusions and agreements were present in the rise and fall of the adults' tones. Looking back, I think perhaps they were agreeing only on the next movie to watch or that indeed a classmate in virology class had a drinking problem. So it wasn't the actual fact of the matter that was so important and
well, sweet. We kids flitted closer and closer to the porch until one of us sat hard on the bottom step, panting and sweaty. Surrender. One by one, the others would join the first there, too, our voices melding with the adults. Goodbye. Sweet goodbye. The dinner had been shared. The grown-ups had had coffee and we had each eaten double portions of dessert. Moths circled around the porch light, drunk with proximity to the lone bulb. A car cruised by, music spilling from open windows.
Then the guests walked down the four steps, still talking to Mom and Dad, calling last moment cheerful thingsencouraging wordsover their shoulders. My sisters and I stood in a ragged line and watched them pile into their cars. We slapped our bare legs free of night insects and were caught briefly in the departing headlights. Goodbye. Good night.
Sometimes we never saw the guests again. Others, we saw almost every week. But each departure was sweet and somehow never final. Over the next few days, we would talk among ourselves about what the father had said, the mother's dessert, the son's violin solo, how the 12 year-old daughter showed us a cigarette in her purse when her parents weren't looking.
Because of memory, we could recall the organist's poofy hair or the pretty but uneasy date of Dad's Jewish classmate. The guests hadn't really left the old apartment. Their spirits visited and revisited our conversations and formed a subcultural breadth particular to my family's memory, something we cannot explain sufficiently today to our spouses or children.
When I started working with Reme and Geejay, it was with the understanding that I was temporary, helping to set things up. The pace of work for each issue starts off slow and easy, very much like non-work, as we pull pieces in and mull them over, and discussing whether to keep, reject or suggest revisions. Then as the deadline looms closer, we speed up, sending dozens of emails to each other daily, even resorting to phone calls across the Pacific during unusual crises. At first, I thought I'd last three or four issues but it's been a glorious 14. Reme's energetic leadership and vision and Geejay's passionate screen artistry were seductive and I stayed and stayed. It's difficult to explain the building tension and expectation as we work towards a release datethe bantering, cajoling, the sudden laughter at silly things as we fuel ourselves through deep night hours on caffeine and one-line emails about food and love lives (or the lack thereof). I have tarried on OUR OWN VOICE's front porch after a long, full dinner. The coffee has been served and the dessert plates scraped clean. I'm getting into my old car, almost expecting to see ghost images of three girls shooing bugs away from their legs. I know I'll be back as a guest so don't think you're rid of me so quickly. This isn't an ultimo adios. I'm still here in the Diaspora and I will see you again.