Childhood dreams of summer in the country

I have a friend whose kids spend summers with their grandparents. My friend and her husband, or both, bring their kids to Capiz (about an hour by plane), spend a few days there then go back to the city and work. The grandparents and the kids have a month or so together and they make the most of it. The grandparents’ house is five minutes away from the beach, the grandfather taught the kids to swim, appreciate freshly caught fish and shrimps, drink water from coconuts plucked from the garden…

I envy them. I grew up in the city next door to my grandparents’. Although, by city standards, we could afford a quasi suburban life with a large property filled with coconut and fruit trees, it wasn’t quite the same as spending summers in the countryside. Although we have distant relatives in the province, we didn’t see them very often much less actually vacation in their houses. In fact, weddings and funerals were the only occasions I remember seeing them.

The seeming lack in my life got even more pronounced when I went to college and had friends who did exactly what I always wanted to do but never did — go home to the province during the Christmas and summer breaks.

I imagined what it would be like to wake up in the morning, look out of the window and see water and fields and mountains…

Wild birds cavorting where they pleased unwary of being molested by city brats who didn’t know how to appreciate them.

I imagined boat rides…

And a thousand different things that city girls didn’t get to enjoy in the city.

Not that we didn’t venture outside the city. Oh, we traveled. My father liked long drives and we went to a lot of places. I didn’t become the water baby that I am vicariously. The sea was my friend even as a child. But weekends at the beach weren’t the same as spending entire summers in the country and actually living among people who did things differently from city folk.

If, as a child, I could have had the chance to see less of the moronic life in the city and more of the less complicated life in the country, I could be a different person than I am today. Perhaps, I would have grown up more sure-footed. Perhaps, I’d feel more affinity with the earth. Perhaps, I’d be less dismissive of old ways and superstitions. Perhaps, I’d be less jaded.

Speedy, on the other hand, was able to experience the rural summers that I only dreamed about. There was a time when his father maintained a business in the province and, sometimes, Speedy would accompany him. He remembered early mornings and waking up to fried eggs that his father prepared. He recalled breakfasts that included fresh carabao’s milk. The unpasteurized kind — the kind delivered in bottles stuffed in the mouths with rolls of banana leaves.

When Sam and Alex were younger, perhaps experiencing the kind of epiphany I had over summers in the country that never were, there were times when they asked if we didn’t have family in the province with whom we could stay for short vacations. I have distant relatives in the province, for sure, but “relatives” is not exactly the same as “family” in the context of grandparents. Speedy has a lot of relatives in the province, none of whom he knows very well.

And I wonder… When Sam and Alex have kids of their own — if they choose to have kids — I wonder if those future grandchildren [theoretical, at this point] would want to spend summers in the country too. We want to move back to the city, not move farther away from the city, and I wonder if those theoretical grandchildren would have it otherwise.

The photos were taken in various parts of the Philippines during family trips and vacations.