The Trouble of Growing Up

I can still recall the smell of my father’s workshop. It was a small and cluttered space situated on the second floor of our rented home. It is a very memorable area of my childhood for me, because it is the place of my earliest memory. I was four at the time, while my sister, Pamela, and cousin, Bea, were just one year old toddlers. I can still remember how little they were, how hilariously tiny they looked, and how they smelled like milk all the time. Most of the time, they sucked on milk bottles while half asleep, but during the day, they got by with their pacifiers. My sister had two of them, a pink one and a blue one, and no one could take them away from her.

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Toddler Pam and Toddler Bea seemingly playing hide and seek. Circa 1998.

I am not entirely sure why I am writing this, but at this hour, I feel really nostalgic of the past. I always catch myself wondering why time seems to fly so fast now, when in the 90’s, one whole day was long enough to do a variety of activities. I could play in the streets with my kid neighbors, I could play Crash Bandicoot and Tekken on the PS1, I could watch TV when Dragon Ball or Pokemon is on, and I would still get bored because I would still have so much time in my hands.

My daily routine as a kid was simple. I woke up, I ate, I went out to play, I came back home to eat again or watch TV or play games, I went out again, and then I came home before the sun set. It was understood that I should be home before it got dark. I don’t remember any agreement on it between my mother and me, but no one wanted to play in the dark streets of my hometown. Of course, it wasn’t because it was unsafe or something. I guess it was because no one wanted to play in the dark, and everyone was tired after a long day of playing.

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My sister Pamela, myself, and cousin Bea. Circa 2003.

My baby sister and baby cousin were always at home. They were not allowed to go outside because they were not old enough, like me. I felt very superior. I was the alpha, and everything I did, they wanted to do as well. They were easily my minions, but I get in trouble with the adults whenever I posed as a bad example to the toddlers. I got hit with all kinds of household stuff including hangers, rolled up newspapers, and anything my mother would get a hand on. I would get scared shitless because it would hurt, and I would remember not to do it again. My sister would always see me get hit, and I don’t know what goes on in her head but I am pretty sure she understood what it meant and what it was for.

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I took this photo while they were both busy doing school work. One is a business student, the other is an art student, both soon to earn their degrees. Two worlds in one dimension. April 2015.

Today, Pamela and Bea are adults. They are not tiny anymore, I cannot laugh at how small they are anymore, and ultimately, they do not smell like milk anymore. They don’t want to do everything that I do anymore, because they know they can do things anytime they wanted to, even without me doing it first. They are adults. They were once stupid and cute little things, and now they have grown to be intellectual and ambitious women, ready to conquer the world. In a little over two decades, these former toddlers are now capable of deciding on their own, building their future, and doing things no one ever thought possible when you look at them as toddlers, with their messy hair and mixed milk and saliva scent. As an alpha, I would call them nerds. But as a fellow woman, I would call them outstanding.

And I sit here, in front of my computer, writing about how I remember them in my mind, trying to preserve the memory of the toddler versions of them and locking it safe, because these photos do not justify the lost memories that I keep trying to remember. The memories I have left of them, of my childhood, are slowly fading away, and I am terrified. What was once my life, now just a moving and defocused picture in my head, slowly disappearing, slowly being taken from me, and soon will completely disappear as I perish.

But I am glad they existed. I am glad of the memories, and whether I remember something or not, I will continue to believe that amazing things happened in the 1990’s, and I believe that in another universe, far away from here, baby Pamela, baby Bea, and street kid Karla never grew up.

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