Today I start the new year as a new wife. We spent the New Year’s Eve as we usually do, the way we like it, quiet and alone. Last year, all three of us were laying in a hammock in a far away farm in a province in the Visayas, looking up at the clear night sky and counting shooting stars. It was our first time to spend the New Year together and Lia has filed it in her list of most memorable events in her life.
Three days ago, we made the incredible jump into finally being called a “family.” A modern one since our passports will bear different last names. I imagine we will have to do an explaining more than once in the future about how we are all together but we are. We have always been one. We didn’t need a wedding to make it official. It has always been in our hearts. We did this anyway because bureaucracy declared that we must. Our tourist visas expire in 9 days, and then we have to do all over again what we have been doing over and over again the past three years. We are exhausted so we finally said, “let’s get this over with!”
It has been a tumultuous four years. When we first met, I had no idea what role he would play in my daughter’s life and mine. I had met many men before. I remember all the many first meetings of practically everyone in my life. His did not really stand out. We struggled through many fights and flights, countless phone calls and hefty phone bills, months, time zones, and countries apart. We said a lot of goodbyes but we kept coming back to each other. We didn’t know anything except that we loved each other deeply. Ours was a relationship only known to those who are special to us or personally saw us together. We didn’t boast of it. We didn’t talk much about it. We didn’t make countless posts on social media. It was something special we held private as much as we could.
Having been married before, never did I imagine myself getting married again. In fact, I didn’t want to. I balked and bailed. I took two steps forward and one step back. I started and stopped a million times. I have commitment phobia. Maybe I even have abandonment syndrome. Maybe I have a gazillion of other undiagnosed mental disorders. Maybe I just didn’t want to be married, committed, and my sense of freedom and independence bound. Or maybe I did not want to make the same mistakes or fail again.
I said over and over again, if my daughter was the reason why I walked out of my previous marriage, my daughter should not be the reason why I walk into another one. I said, maybe at one point I should stop living my life for my daughter. I said, maybe this once I try to live it for myself. But I am a parent, and I think being one is the thing I have been best at so far.
When I got the chickenpox eleven days before the wedding of my daughter’s lifetime was to take place, I told the best of my friends that those were “signs”! We thought about postponing the wedding. We thought about people, especially those with young kids who have not had the varicella, not being able to come, and our already short guest list getting even shorter. Maybe even too short to call it a wedding party. I left everybody else to worry and wonder about all these while I lay in bed writhing in sore muscles, body aches, painful and itchy blisters, and shunning everyone.
With time and medication, I started to feel better. I saw how my fiancé took care of me so well, despite my nastiness. I remember waking up in the middle of night, after walking out of dinner because I found his response to what I said mean, with his side of the bed empty, and thinking that perhaps he went to sleep on the sofa in the living room and left me to sleep alone. But then he comes in, approaches me quietly, and whispers softly, “Bebe, time for your medicine.” He had stayed up so late at night so that he could give me my medicine at the right time. If I was feeling well enough to cry, I am sure I would have had; but then and there, I realized that this man loved me. It was that simple act that did it. For this man loves his sleep more than anything else. If everything else he had done for me and my daughter and for all of us to be together had not been enough to convince me he loved me, that one did. I made the decision the day after.
When I was young, I made a promise to myself that I would not have a boyfriend until I turned eighteen. I remember being so excited when that day came. Then, I made a promise to myself that my first ever boyfriend would be the one I would marry. And I did that too. But I remember being so much less excited when that day came. I remember that days before the wedding, I had wanted to run away. In fact, my ex husband admitted that he expected me to not be there on our wedding day. Or that if I did not show up, he would have totally understood. I wish I can wish that I did not but if I had not, then I would not have Lia and I would not have missed that for the world.
My ex-husband said I stopped loving him the day I married him and maybe that was true. Or maybe what was truer was that I stopped loving him when he started hitting me. Who could say? Those who have known us both during our university years could attest that they saw me wildly and madly in love with him, and at one point during our difficult married years, some of them even pleaded that maybe, just maybe, I could find it in me to go back to that feeling.
I never imagined myself being someone who could say “was once married,” We all go to the wedding thinking we are walking into forever. We all try to make it work.
We both tried to make it work. Although my ex-husband said him more than me. I was so far gone that I flinched when touched even when asleep. So after six years of marriage, and twelve years of being together on and off, through ups and downs, I finally bade my goodbye, walked out the door, and vowed to never look or walk back. It took a lot of strength, took away a lot of my old friends, took a lot of pain, and I went through it all with all the courage and faked bravado in me. I broke down many times. I wished for understanding and many times did not get it. Many times I felt alone, and I was. I only let my daughter see me broken, and a few others, because I liked to pretend everything was alright. It is without cause that my daughter is seven turning senior citizen. I wish I could have shielded her but I could not lie.
If there ever was anybody looking forward to this wedding so much, that would be Lia. She has been planning this wedding so long. It was in her drawings, her stories, her play time with her favorite My Little Pony character figures, in her head, and in her conversations with anybody who cared enough to listen. We were in London in 2015 when she was looking at dresses and asking me to buy her a dress to wear at my wedding. She would not stop talking about it and it stressed me out so much that I eventually told her I was never going to get married. I did not know it then but she felt very sad about that.
So when we finally confirmed that this wedding was taking place, although not according to her well-made plans, she claimed sole responsibility for it by saying, “I said it so much that you got so tired of me asking that you decided to finally do it, right?”
Lia, the light in our lives, the center of our big universe, the cord that ties all of us together, is the reason why we are here.
For her, we decided to make a home in Italy. It took five weeks to renovate our flat with the help of our friends in Archimede, Pinterest, our family, and our many friends, who followed the developments with excitement. It took almost a year to decide where to send Lia to a school where she can go to for at least the next four years, and many of our friends were of help in the decision making process. It took months to prepare the paperwork for the marriage itself, and again, our friends were of tremendous help in getting the documents put together, with some taking time off work to go to various government offices like the Department of Foreign Affairs, and even spent their own money to send the documents to us. We could not have done all these alone. We had countless, immeasurable help from loved ones.
Some people feel that 2016 was a very bad year. It wasn’t for us. We have had many milestones. I turned 34 and true to some surveys in an article I read somewhere at some point in the past, I was at my happiest. One only has to see it in my eyes. And my daughter’s. And my husband’s. I am still 34, it isn’t over yet, and I am still excited about what the next months may bring.
We have a place to call home. I finally have an address to write in that space in forms with the word “permanent.” I even have my name on the building’s door bell and on our front door’s. We have been to so many places, met a lot of people, had a lot of beautiful experiences, and we are excited to share them with you. We’ve made a nice little place, minimalist, green, and chill. For all those who have hosted us in our many travels, for all those we have met in many cities around the world and when we were living our life in El Nido, shared our joys and pains, come pay us a visit if you can. There is the warmth and love of our family, good food, excellent wine, really good coffee, and plenty of stories to tell. We shall laugh and we shall cry, and we shall hope that our stories of friendship and family, of love and pain, will be a source of inspiration, and a reason as to what makes life beautiful.
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings. And they can only be grown in the home.”– Hodding Carter