I always tell people that I learned my best manners from my Mima. When I was a pigtailed, dark-skinned, pinukbit of a little girl, my two older brothers and I would spend the last weekend of every month with my dad. My Mima lived with him for awhile, and I will always remember meals with her. As a child, I didn't understand what it meant to be born and raised in a different time, country, or culture. Now I cherish and respect that my dad and his family came from the Philippines. Much like myself, my dad has never been a morning person (mostly because he's usually worked late shifts as a mechanic for PG&E). Without fail, Dad would thoroughly set the table the night before: bowls, spoons, juice glasses, napkins, several cereal choices, and a banana next to each place setting. Anthony, Greg, and I were quite used to this routine. We'd help ourselves, then watch some Saturday morning cartoons or play some sort of game before my dad woke. I'll always remember the first morning with Mima there. My brothers and I settled into our places, slicing bananas into our bowls, and pouring our juice. Anthony and I added milk to our selected cereal, but Greg preferred to eat his dry. "What do you think you're doing?!" My Mima was shocked that anyone could eat dry cereal without milk. Greg had always hated milk. Even as a baby, he'd throw his bottle across the room to protest the vile white liquid. So what did my Mima do? She made him add tap water - yes water - to his cereal. Can you imagine? To this day, Greg and I still laugh about it. She was always so old fashioned, and so stubborn. Dinner with Mima was often a learning experience. Keep your hair pulled back and don't touch it. Sit up straight. Keep one hand in your lap at all times. No elbows on the table. Don't chew with your mouth open. Don't speak with food in your mouth. Say please, thank you, and you're welcome. Use the words "may I" instead of "can I". You must ask to be excused before leaving the table to go to the bathroom or finishing dinner altogether. Don't drink from your glass until you're finished eating (I'm told this is a weird instruction, but she was adamant about it). I remember being so eager to please her, that once while we were chatting in the living room, I said, "Excuse me, I need to use the restroom". Her response (with her lovely Tagalog accent) "What are you going to do, take a rest?" I was so embarrassed that I ran off to the bathroom without answering.
After my Mima's first stroke, she went mostly blind. She was then living in a retirement community, but was still living independently in a small house. My Dad dropped me off to spend the day with her while he did "boyish things" with my brothers (I always felt jealous and left out). I was probably in my younger teenage or pre-teen years. My Auntie was there to dye Mima's grown-out hair roots to her usual shade of deep reddish-auburn. I don't think I was meant to witness it, but my Mima began to weep. With her scalp lathered in the sour wet goop, she hung her head and cried. She appeared so vulnerable. It was the first time I had ever seen her as anything but strong, commanding, and confident. You see, my Mima spent many years as a cosmetologist. She prided herself on her appearance, and was so dejected in knowing that she had to get help dying her hair. It was so sad, and I'll never forget how it felt to realize that her health was beginning to go downhill.
My Mima passed away on December 5th surrounded by our family. We knew this day was approaching, but of course it didn't make the event any less sorrowful. I'm so thankful that she and Harper were able to meet last year. She will always be the lovely voice in my heart that tells me to mind my manners when they're called upon. I'll always remember her as the beautiful woman she was. She loved Japanese culture, she was an artist like me (I hang her paintings in my house with pride), and appreciated fine things. She was very old-fashioned, and very particular about things. But most of all, she was my grandmother - and as that grandmother, she was perfect. I have her stubbornness, her interest in art, and of course... her Filipina nose. I love you, Mima. I'm glad you're finally at peace.