Year 2011

I was born in the 60’s. I was too young to recall why an angry mob shooed the Beatles away from our airport but old enough to remember the soundtracks from such TV comedies as “M.A.S.H” and “Welcome Back, Kotter.” My father owned a blue Chevrolet Impala with a leather backseat big and wide enough to swallow me up. I imagined it as a spaceship, with its oversized built-in radio and a near-panoramic windshield. Soon enough, that car gave way to a succession of other vehicles – including a Ford Fierra that was so springy that my brothers and I had to hold on to something every time the tires hit a pothole.

My nieces and nephews don’t know any of these things – the Love Bus, music cartridges for car stereos, long-playing albums and 45 singles, Chocovim and Selecta fresh milk in bottles, foot-jumps and Chinese jackstones, Pepe Pimentel’s Kuwarta o Kahon, and a broadsheet known as the Daily Express. In that sense, I consider myself lucky because while these kids have technology on their side, the age group that I belong to has the context and content to go with it. At that time, our toys were either living creatures like spiders in a matchbox or inanimate objects that you need to push or drag around, or cut into pieces like clay. The music that we played had lyrics encased in complete sentences with commas and periods and not just telegraphic dashes and a sprinkling of Ahs and Ohs.

The simplicity of life then is worlds apart from the simplicity of life now. During my youth, it didn’t take a whole lot to make me smile, laugh, and giggle. Contentment was an ice cream cone bought at the sidewalk from our neighbourhood “sorbetero”. We walked to church for Sunday mass and came home with pan-de-coco in a brown bag. My brothers flew handmade kites called “boca-boca”. We owned two dogs, named Frito and Tootsie. My mother cooked our meals or decided what meals to serve. My father waited up for us when we were late in coming home. Our phones had dials; so did our television set.

Today, every television set in my townhouse has its matching remote control. All my music fit in a thumb-size IPOD shuffle. We use the Internet to check out movies to watch, and sometimes to order food for delivery. My daughter sends me an SMS when she’s out late at night, and vice-versa. My coffee is three-in-one, and my books are all on Kindle. My handwriting has gone bad but my typing skills would put a full-time administrative assistant to shame. Nowadays, contentment is an expensive fruity yoghurt sundae bought in a mall, in a tiny plastic cup.

If as a child, I’d been asked to describe the year 2011, I would have balked at such a challenge. Yet, here we all are. I am all grown up and expanding sideways with a daughter so wise and independent at the age of 25. I have more dogs than you have fingers. I never thought then that “broadband” would become one word and mean so much. We have face transplants, and liposuctions, and reality shows that depict it. They now give away houses and millions of pesos in a single game show that back in our time would just have the tallest refrigerator as a major door prize. I follow the news on Twitter, and meet friends on Facebook.

Looking back, it is no longer true that the only thing certain in life is death and taxes. The march of time is certain; it waits for no one yet we feel each step in our creaky joints, in the hazy glow of subdued memories. The kids out there would see 2011 emblazoned in the Starbucks planners that they worked hard to obtain, sticker by sticker. We, who are much older, see 2011 as an appreciation of life lived in a continuum, from birth to adulthood, from the dustbin of memories to the creation of new skills and experiences. It is amazing, this thing called life. No matter when lived and by whom, life is for us to either waste or nourish, regardless of what year it is.

Dear Readers, a new year is upon us. I wish you a year of contentment amid challenges and opportunities that would come your way. My father once said, “Pessimism is a state of mind but optimism is a strategy for living.” In my heart, I know that 2011 will be a good year for all of us. No matter how old or young you are, I pray that you open yourself to the best that this year has to offer. Happy New Year! (Send comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com. Follow me on Twitter via www.twitter.com/susanople.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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