There is a beautiful Colombian saying that a house is not built over the earth, but over the woman. And this I believe to be true. At least it was very true in our house. As the years passed we all changed and evolved, even our Pilipino nanny who had arrived being almost a child herself, after seven years with us moved on with a child of her own. But like in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, very much like in One Hundred Years of Solitude to be precise, it all revolved around my mother: the wind, the breeze and the tempest.
She was the tree we held on to when something went wrong. Where we all went for shade. She was the roots to our family, and it was under her protection that we flourished. For years she would even translate between my father and us, who insisted on talking to her when referring to one of us, even if we were present, as if we did not speak the same language. And to some degree for many years, especially when the girls hit adolescence, we did not speak the same language. A common conundrum of third culture kids that move to more “developed” or liberal societies. It is well documented that under these circumstances it is the women, the mothers, that are more able to adapt, while the father’s often recur to raising a blind eye to the situations that arise, being able to understand rationally that the culture they live in has different norms, but unable to accept it emotionally.
As a child it was difficult for me to see what role my father played. I knew he worked, I knew he provided, but those are very abstract things to a child. With time I have come to appreciate the other roles he played in our little garden. I think now that he was the earth. My mother held us and him and everything together, but in return he was the one that held, fed, and nurtured her. He provided her with the strength to withstand it all, he was her reference and our north. I have not met a more noble or honest man. Hardworking and ambitious in a good way. And with his quiet example he taught us right from wrong.