WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: A wedding in the family. By Gail Ilagan

So there I was with what I took to be my own precious little bundle. Ate and Kuya micromanaged his care from far away, and I ended up diplomatically translating for Ma the new age childrearing requirements that the parents insisted on. My nephew taught me the joys of caring for an infant. He introduced me to the inconceivable delight of the feel of baby curls as soft as down, to the melting feeling one gets in the region of the heart when trusting pixy eyes light up as you walk into the room. We celebrated discovering the first tooth coming out, the first unsteady step taken. I loved that baby like he was my very own.

I brought that boy back to his parents when I went to college. True to her word, sister was in hot pursuit to be top dog at work, leaving her little time to attend PTA conferences and birthday celebrations at school and visits to the pediatrician. Not to worry, surrogate mama was there to the rescue, translating the parents’ detailed instructions this time for Mark’s yaya.

On Fridays, I’d punch out early from work at the donut shop so we could watch Thundercats together before I had to go home to the dorm. I’d mix up the pieces to various jigsaw puzzles and he would be able to work them out in record time. He beat me at Mario and Tetris, and I just could not figure out how- so we’d play again. His emerging problem solving abilities became the subject of my Child Psychology papers.

Mark was very precocious. Like me, he was moved to shake the tree every now and then. I remember when he was a shepherd for the Christmas play in prep. He sedately walked with the pack, but when he got to center stage he raised his staff and bellowed: “I have the power!”

Mark was entering the grades when I left to make my destiny. By then he had two baby sisters, Denny and Kay, and he was learning to be the man of the house while his dad went to Ohio for graduate school.

Over the next few years, I did not get to spend much time with Mark. Finally, I got married and settled in GenSan (General Santos City) just when that part of the world was hooking up to the Internet. By then, Mark was in Philippine Science High and was more comfortable emailing me for help on some of his school requirements. A few years later, he traveled down south and bade me goodbye. Following his Dad’s footsteps, he was going to West Point despite my mom’s misgivings.

Well, he survived that training school on South Hudson. He came back to the Philippines four years ago to do military service. Sometimes when he’s down from the mountains and finding himself anywhere near an airport, he’d ask to meet a shipment of Davao fruits and tuna panga. He’d email for my comments and fearless forecast on issues of interest, or we’d bat around aspects of highland culture through text. Then last March, he called to say he was getting married and would I come to Manila to be ninang?

How could I possibly refuse this boy? – er, man? His wedding was set for January and he was apologetic because it meant I had to be in a long gown, but maybe that was okay as his mom had a lot of gowns I could borrow. I told him I could probably get a gown for the occasion.

So there I was all set to be ninang. I had it on calendar. And then December turned into a nightmare with me having to go in and out of the hospital. Finally, I underwent major surgery after Christmas, a week before the wedding. This threw the wedding planners a bit with the frantic search for someone to proxy, but I said I’ll make it. Well, I did.

But up to the last minute, my nephews and nieces were taking bets if I would be up to it. My niece Jenny carried my heels and exchanged them for my slippers just before I had to walk down that aisle. But that was it. I had to stay put soon after. Like, I had to shelve interviewing Gen. Esperon, FVR, and Gen. Vicente Lim, the first Filipino graduate of West Point, who came to Fernwood Gardens for the wedding. Mark’s wedding reception was not the occasion for it. Oh, but aaargh- it’s not often that I can be in the same place with these people.

Hubby and Mom were the only ones who were unruffled by my decision to walk down that aisle for Mark and his childhood sweetheart Becca. They know me well enough to know that I am a better judge of what my body could and could not do. I went for post-op check up today and my doctor confirmed that I, indeed, was healing quite nicely and was probably fit to go back to work. I think maybe it’s because Dr. Chua is such a skillful surgeon.

Did I really push my body to be there for Mark? Maybe I did. I know I did not like lying down and aching all over all day. I chafed my bit and was quite impatient for a few days after the operation as it took me longer to do what I needed to do.

My goal was to be at the wedding as I promised. And no, I did not have to march if I couldn’t do it. But to be there with my husband and daughters was perhaps so important for me because family is more than just people we’ve known all our lives. There’s a certain comfort to coming home to the bosom of loved ones, people who are so very familiar to us they used to sometimes rub us wrong in the past. On the brink of menopause and midlife, however, we come to discover that we really wouldn’t want to take them any other way and –surprise? – we’d even like to share them with our children and our mother-in law.

The wedding was, indeed, the occasion for the family to be together and celebrate the kind of love that binds people to each other, to affirm for Becca and Mark that while they may only have eyes for each other now, we their folks would always be there for them.

Here’s a Vulcan wish for Mark and Becca to live long and prosper in love together. (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to [email protected] "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)