CATCHING sight of the modest starbursts of yellow in our water apple tree, I realized that summer is here.
The tiny flowers with many stamens promise that the bell-shaped fruits will soon be out. I grew up thinking that the fruits saturated in pink verging on the red were the juiciest and sweetest.
The tree in our small garden, though, yields only the greenish white bells of the parent tree from which it was marcotted. Their pale jade wakes a memory of sourness, only to be dispelled when the first bite brings a watering, overflowing tart sweetness.
Like children and water apples, summers change. Of all the occupations I held, I stayed longest with teaching perhaps because it left me summers to enjoy.
Two months of freedom from school and routine challenged my sister and I to think of ways to rush sunrise into sunset. Long after we tired of eating, playing, quarrelling, and watching TV, the day was still far from over.
So I read. When I was finished with the books at home, I reread those I liked.
Then I got tired even with the ones I liked. So I wrote.
I discovered empty sheets in old notebooks, and converted these spaces into an impatient, furious confessional. Some stories I rewrote and reread to myself.
School interrupted. But there was always summer to look forward to.
Now, whenever I see summer’s flowers—white stars dotting the water apple tree, the dirty yellow carpet shed by trees growing on the wayside, orange flames engulfing fire trees—I think of the mysteries of reading and writing.
As a consequence of the shift to the August to May international academic calendar, the midyear term has affected summer.
Yet, it may take time for the rationale of improved competitiveness brought about by synchronization with the global community to seep in and transform summer, which, in this country, embraces not just climate but also culture and consciousness.
Recently, I saw on my table a story handwritten and illustrated on a ruled yellow sheet of paper. Its author is Athea, 9.
She loves to plant herbs with her two younger brothers. When she discovered how much herbs fetch in markets, she made up her mind to grow and sell them.
Athea and her brothers have mixed cement, sand, and water to help the carpenters building their home. She has also made up her mind to become an architect.
In a haste to grow up, Athea makes time to read Geronimo Stilton. She can only focus on her tablet for half an hour. Then she gets restless and looks for a sheet of paper and pencil.
Her tale of two friends and their floating pumpkin came from one such interval in Athea’s crammed, full life. And for her, summer—a lifetime of summers—has yet to begin.
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*First published in SunStar Cebu’s March 5, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”