Joy to your homes

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo - CDN Digital | December 21,2019 - 06:32 AM

Mothers reach their tipping point somewhere along the road of being superwoman, who appears to have everything under control.

I reached mine on a Thursday night when I came home at 11:58 p.m. to a daughter who asked me, “Have you bought our Bohemian attire for the party tomorrow?”

Honesty is still the best policy at home so I told her I completely forgot about it but I will make sure to improvise using whatever we have at home so she will still go to the party as the theme requires.

The daughter cried and told me that I was too busy with work that their request slipped my mind.

There was no judgment in her voice when she said it; just pure fact and that is why it was a cause of deep reflection and review of priorities.

I have given up a few things this year when I decided to work again full time. Graduate school has been out of the picture for two semesters as I alternated between lazy and exhausted to finish my thesis. I stopped writing commissioned books and postponed a couple of passion projects. I took lesser trips abroad and focused on more domestic trips. Yet, the personal and professional responsibilities came rushing in the like the people who frequent the malls these days for last-minute shopping.

Overwhelmed is not even an adjective to describe what I am as a mother right now. There is so much that needs to be done in the house but there is no single Christmas decor in there. Four days before Christmas, I still do not have the strength to do anything what with this incessant cough brought about by a respiratory tract infection.

The last six months was all about waking up at 5 a.m. to get two children ready by 6:30 a.m. and another child ready by 9 a.m. In between, there is work to be done and errands to run.

I do not do our laundry but the sight of it is a cause of nausea. Looking at the piles of dirty clothes is a nightmare. We have long given up on the efficiency of a washing machine to take care of our  laundry so we send our clothes out to be taken care of by a group of ladies who wash, dry and fold them like clockwork. At least I do not have to do that backbreaking work series. But the bill that comes with the clean clothes is also a cause of nausea. Please, I beg you, do not follow my example.

I do not sweep the floor or clean the bathroom. I seldom wash the dishes. This year, grocery shopping has not been one of my favorite chores. I have been cooking more though in many family gatherings.

The inspiration came from my mother-in-law, Antoinette, whom I have never met because she passed away even before I met my husband. But she left with my sister-in-law, Mary, a compilation of recipes consisting of lasagna, tiramisu and every Italian dish you can imagine. She even had a recipe on chopsuey, the only Asian recipe in the fold. Mary shared these recipes to me. I got to know her because of the notes she left on every recipe. My husband remembers his childhood to be filled with the smell of garlic and homemade sauce and he gets teary-eyed with all those memories. I had a semblance of that childhood with adobo, inun-unan, afritada, humba, fried chicken, mongos, utan bisaya and piniritong isda served on the table depending on the occasion and the financial situation.

We wanted our children to have the same memories; that they will associate food with home and it will always bring them comfort no matter the difficulties they go through later in their lives as adults.

Cooking involves a lot of work and passion and when you have three children below the age of six running and leaving the house in total disarray, there are moments when you feel that cooking becomes a burden. I love slaving myself away over a hot stove for hours but then there are three children to manage, assignments to do and Netflix series to finish.

I have been relying on Ate Joy, our trusted all-around nanny/cook/tutor/confidante, for so long to accomplish several tasks for me. But she will be leaving us for good soon to chase her dream to become a degree holder as her younger sister will soon finish her four-year course that Ate Joy has been paying for in the last five years.

She has been trying to prepare me for her eventual departure but I am still in a stage where I could not yet embrace the truth of the proclamation.

Tired, sad and sick, I made a decision to not cook on Christmas. Ate Joy found the idea disturbing at first. “How can you not cook on Christmas,” she said. But I explained that I am too tired to do anything other than eating on Christmas. “Okay, I will pack the bags,” she said.

I decided to do something different this Christmas. Upon the approval of the husband, I decided to book a hotel room on December 24 and bring the entire cavalry in. I briefed the children about what is going to happen and they seem to be pretty excited about the idea.

There will be no spaghetti made by Mommy/Nanay, no fruit salad, no adobo or menudo, no bam-i. We will be eating in a restaurant, whichever is open on Christmas Eve. I will not peel any garlic on that day; no teardrops from chopping onions. There will be no hours of boiling pork for humba.

I am going to savor this Christmas before Ate Joy leaves me with dishes to wash, floor to sweep, children to bathe and a heartbreak to nurse. I am sad to let her go but she has her dreams to reach and our family will not stand in her way to achieve those.

Christmas, they say, is a season of joy. It truly is because our family has been gifted with a lady, who dedicated herself to serve us. She loves my children like her own and protects them with her life. We have been blessed to have Ate Joy as part of our family.

This is her season and I am truly hoping that she will succeed wherever her path leads her. This is why I always say to my fellow mothers that when you have found your Ate Joy, treat them well, love them, appreciate them. They are not just your employees; they are family.

In this season of giving and sharing, may you reward and cherish the Ate Joys you have in your homes because, trust me, in a world full of thieves and fools, it is rare to find someone loyal and true.

May your Christmas be filled with love and joy!

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