Pope John Paul II was in the Philippines in 1981. (also in 1995)
My parents, my sisters and I joined millions at the central park of Manila to see him.
Admission to the event was free, but sections closer to the stage had barriers. Apparently people from affluent neighborhoods were able to gain access to these cordoned areas with
"free special tickets" from their parishes.
The entrepreneurs selling totus tuus foam peace signs, the displaced middle-class such as my family and the masses-had to be content to be on the periphery of the papal event.
We saw Sue from a distance. She was one of my sister's classmates.
There was a barricade between us.
Sue excitedly yelled out hello, she was happy to see us.
Confused, she candidly asked,
"why are you there?"
(how does one answer that question?)
Then with a quick recover, she said:
"at least you are here."
A confluence of three roads is where our house stood.
We were not really part of any neighborhood.
Hence, iffy parish membership and the inability to scalp papal tickets.
But this is how life was anyway.
We were never sure of where we belonged.
We went to the best private schools money we did not have, could buy.
We were schooled with the richest people in town--presidential children and grandchildren--the class lists read like a who's who of Manila.
And then there was us,
with a house with a leaking roof and a car that only started if the gas pedal was given a patented "big toe wiggle".
In first grade, some girls from school came over for a playdate.
One girl having seen my wooden bed exclaimed
"ay no cushion?!!"
How could I explain to her that being the youngest of nine children, it was not yet my turn to get a mattress?
I was only six yet I recall that day so vividly.
I remember thinking that the girl was impolite to point out what I did not have.
This morning as I was snuggling with my 8 year old I told her the story of
"the mattress disdainer".
Her first reaction was, "How rude!"
Her second response: "wasn't that bed uncomfortable?"
I was not all that uncomfortable, but I do remember being happy to get a mattress a year later.
I have since learned that:
Life is better when luxuries are allowed to unfold slowly.