Now, we’re living in house in the suburbs. We all have our own rooms. We have two dinner tables. We finally got a dog, a golden retriever/yellow lab mix called Caeser. Mom’s an entrepreneur. Andre is in his third year of university, studying abroad in Paris. AJ is writing for a magazines and facilitating workshops for the LGBTQ community. Daniele can speak Canada’s two official languages.
On March 7th 2001, my family and I immigrated from the Philippines to Canada. We are proud immigrants.
My parents saw this great country and took a leap of faith. They built our lives from the bottom. Because of that, I believe the five of us are developing into the best versions of ourselves. Though a lot has changed since that first step out of Pearson Airport, a couple things remain. One being we were then and still are hardworking and driven by dreams… and love.
Today, ten years later, I share with you a birthday memory that was honestly truly iconic. I’m not joking in the slightest. My 7th birthday had the 1st grade TALKING.
It was 2007, my mom had just gotten off the plane from the Philippines. She was pushing the luggage cart when she said, “Daniele, we made the invitations for your party! They’re reeeaaallyy nice. It’s princess-y and-”
At this point, we hadn’t really planned anything for my birthday.
I was jumping alongside her to match her adult-pace. “Does it have sparkles?!”
“No,” she said, “but we can put sparkles on them if you want!”
We got home and she showed me this:
She explained that she was planning this extravagant party at the community centre gym, where everyone would have to dress up like royalty, and everyone would have to do the waltz. I invited everyone in my class, my mom’s friends, the neighbourhood kids, and my teacher. As far as I knew, it was going to be the party of the century.
My cousin did my makeup and tried to bipity bopity boo my thick hair as best she could. She even cut the straps of the tank top (devastating!!) that I was wearing underneath the dress. It took so long that I was even late to my own party. My dad drove us to the community centre. There was snow and slush on the pavement so my dad picked me up, my pink parka over that huge Cinderella dress spilling over his arms, and he ran me inside.
The people that worked at the front desk saw us and kept saying”A princess is here!”
He set me down at the gym doors. Then, of course, I made my grand entrance.
If it’s difficult for you to picture a bunch of itty bitty first graders creating a path for me to walk through (like a wedding), lucky for you, there are pictures. I don’t really remember the rest of the party but here are some bullet points:
Even though this whole party was a Filipino tradition, we stuck to our Canadian customs and just had pizza; it’s my favourite pizza anyway.
My cousin had taken me to the bathroom because my mom was afraid I wouldn’t know how to go with the dress on. And I didn’t. It took so long that by the time I got back to the party, all the pizza was gone. Keep in mind the massive headcount. My mom gave me a frozen pizza.
My Uncle Willie, a legendary magician, performed his famous magic tricks to a crowd of stunned kids. *He’s been doing magic for all my childhood parties, by the way. It’s great.
My cousin’s friend, Dave, can be seen in the brackground of every photo (almost all of which I can’t find for the life of me and trust me, I’ve spent the past few days looking all over)
Then, my mom taught everyone to waltz. Meaning, my whole first grade class and all the neighbourhood kids had their first slow dance at my 7th birthday party. My mom did her best to pair the boys and girls but, you know, cooties. I danced with not one but two boys. We laughed about it the whole time. A bunch of streamers caught onto the back of my dress and the boy held them said I was a dragon and he was holding my tail. Swooon! My kid mind thought it was oh so romantic.
Of course, my mom was the real MVP. Not only did she plan the whole party, she made the most extravagant cake any child could ever ask for, made this glorious balloon arrangement, AND she taught everyone how to to the waltz. My brothers and I didn’t have too many birthday parties growing up but when we agreed to have them, my mom did not stop at 95%. Even now, 10 years later, I’m having a “chill, PJ hangout with some friends” and she said “anak, please give me a chance to plan this party.” So now our little hangout is, what she thinks and what I’ve come to realize, a proper 17th birthday with s’mores, fondue, a naked cake, and more. I even insisted she doesn’t have to whip out her collection of china for a tea party; my friends and I don’t really like tea.
Now it’s ten years later and look just what a decade can do.
I remember being younger, putting my hands around her cheeks, and being jealous of how soft her face was. I told her this too. Mine were dense and hers caved in like a soft pillow when I pushed my hands against her skin. When I told her I liked her skin, she thought I was crazy and even returned the compliment. She smiled a lot more than me and her face stretched out with years and years of having pulled every kind of expression.
She’s really pretty. Like really. I admired her almond-shaped eyes, how her face was slim, how she had cheekbones and naturally full lips . Her side profile is statuesque and she smells nice. And while we’re on the topic of things I admired, she’s been to so many places and done a lot of things. Even if she had never been on a plane once, she grew up in a time of constant adventure. I hear a lot of her stories at least twice but I have to say I like hearing them.I even like hearing stories about her from other people, people who knew her before I did. How she was popular. How she dressed and presented herself. It’s always weird to think about who she was before she was my mom.
To quote Lilo, Halloween is a “federal holiday. Everybody dresses up like zombies and stuff and tries to scare you.”
I very much enjoyed delving into the nooks and crannies of old photo albums, CD files, [privatized] Facebook posts, and old emails from the email account that I used to update my other ten year old friends.
*note: I was born in 2000
First Halloween and I am a clown. I don’t really like clowns. This was a couple months before my family immigrated to Canada. Also photographed: AJ as a bunny, Andre as Woody, and mom as…mom.
I can’t tell what I was here and I’m pretty sure no one else in this photo knew what they were either. I’m wearing a Jasmine costume…apparently.
Ariel. I think this was my first time going treat-or-treating in an actual neighborhood. By the way, you KNOW you’re a kid in Canada when you’ve got a turtle neck under your princess costume.