Sometimes I sit and wonder what it would be like if heaven had a waiting room. Visiting hours. I imagine I’d arrive by train after traveling a couple days passing by lakes and rolling green hills kind of like something out of Harry Potter. I imagine I’d step down from the train arriving right in front of my grandmother’s house. It would be a sunny and hot California day. I’d walk up against her driveway, across her lawn and open her gated front door. My nostrils would immediately flare as I’d inhale the smell of Kare-Kare inviting me into the kitchen where I’d see this tiny Filipino woman wearing a duster dress with her hair up in a bun hovering over a stove with a wooden spoon asking if I closed the gate when I came in (in Tagalog of course). I’d nod, bow my head to her backhand that has been extended to my forehead and say, “Mano Po”. She in return would say, “God bless you honey”, smile at me and continue cooking.
Everything would be as I remembered her house to be. Her kitchen would have that black and white tile, the sunlight would be beaming in through the back screen door and window that sat above the sink. The living room would have those brown couches. There was nothing special about them other than they were brown. There would be a small wooden music box that she kept house change in. She always had coins scattered throughout the house sitting in some kind of cup or dish. On the top of that music box is a picture of me and her at my 3rd birthday party in the park. I’m carrying a bag of chips that is literally half my size as I’m seen aiming my lips up to her for a kiss and she is puckering hers down towards me. I’d look around and see my 6-year-old self walking passed me to the door that led to Mama’s garage holding a mixing bowl full of boiled shrimp, with my cousin trailing behind me holding a Power Ranger toy in one hand and a Space Jam Monstar in the other. I’d go into the garage after them and see my other cousin and sister sitting in an electric kids Jeep Truck that’s parked in front of a small TV with Sister Act 2 cued up on the VCR and ready to play. I imagine I’d sit my ass down on a big wheel next to my younger self, peel back a few shrimp shells and indulge in a comedy with Whoopi Goldberg teaching Lauryn Hill and a bunch of high school kids how to sing as a choir.
After the movie, I’d help clean up and we’d all head inside. By that time Mama would have just finished her afternoon prayer in her bedroom and would’ve met us in the kitchen to feed us another meal or snack or pass out Ube ice cream from the freezer served on a cone. Then we’d all reconvene in the living room, fall over the brown couches and a bean bag chair, turn on Animaniacs and eat ice cream until it was time for me to go. Once visiting hours came to an end I’d start grabbing my stuff, putting on my shoes and I’d go over to Mama to tell her I’m leaving. She would then rush to the kitchen and start packing food in random Tupperware, “bring this for your lunch and bring some to your mom, okay?”, she’d say. I’d smile, kiss her on her cheek, and say okay. I’d look at my younger self and my cousins and say, “have fun yall, be good.” Just before I leave, Mama would tell me to drive safe, give me a hug followed by a smack on the back of the head telling me to stop texting while I’m driving, “Tex, tex, tex!! Always Texting!!”. I’d start making my way back to the train and say, “I will Mama, don’t worry”. She’d just give me that look and reply bug-eyed and say “mmhmm!!”. I’d step on the train and hang on the rail handle with one hand (because in this episode, of course, the train is one of those old coal engine trains you see in movies), I’d gaze back at that old house as the train slowly rolls away and in that moment I’d be filled with so much gratitude to that little lady for giving us a place to run away to. We always had a place to go and stay; to laugh and escape; to be favored and loved and best of all, to eat. 🙂