Tag Archives: the sixties

Days and Nights in the City Where I First Opened My Eyes

Photograph by Jose Padua
My mother worked nights at home, daytime too,
in the house, at the sewing machine, making dresses
for women who could afford to have dresses made
for them. We bought our clothes at the store, though
sometimes she would sew something special for us–
a vest, a Barong Tagalog made out of sheer white
fabric which I never wore because I thought it would
make me look even less American than I already did
with what the kids at school sometimes called my
Chinese Checkers eyes. I liked jeans and tee shirts,
sneakers, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and
I’d never think of playing The Reycard Duet with
Tony Maiquez and his Ukelele Gang singing
“Oh! Baby” which was wild and raw and—though
I didn’t know the word for it at the time—badass.
My father took care of the ambassador’s residence,
made sure water ran through every pipe, and lights
went on in every big, fancy bedroom and in the
grand dining room where every piece of furniture
was hand-carved with ivory inlays and where the
long narrow halls were big enough for us to live in.
At nights he served drinks and appetizers to the class
of people who could drink strong drinks and
eat gourmet meals, hoping each night for good tips
and maybe good leftovers which he could bring
home to us—strawberries in custard in a miniature
pie shell, flaky black and white pastries that came in
layers that fell apart like the times as we bit into them,
staying up a little later than we were supposed to,
waiting for our treats, but mostly for him, which
was when my mom would turn the sewing machine
off for the night and come into the fluorescent light
of the kitchen, where we’d sit, the sweet taste on
our tongues interrupting every stray question and
tidy answer, our eyes getting heavier, happy, content
with long tiring days ending in long bright nights.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

It Was the Summer After the Summer of Love

Cosme and Margarita Padua
I must have been ten or eleven,
I’m not sure which,
and it must have been
the summer after the summer of love,
when I looked through a dresser drawer
in the basement stuffed
with some of my Mom’s clothes.
I knew they were old
because they didn’t have that crisp,
pressed feel of something
that had just been brought home from the store,
but rather had that smooth and cool feeling
like early-in-the-morning,
not-quite-awake skin;
and at the bottom,
reaching with my hand,
fingers spread apart,
I touched something with my thumb
and when I pull it out
I see it’s a dusty paperback sex manual
illustrated with wooden peg figures,
and it’s the first time in my life
that I’ve ever had an image
or maybe it just an idea
(which was still bad enough)
of my parents doing it,
having sex, grabbing each other
the way that grown-ups do,
and I thought, “Oh my God,”
even though by that time I was already beginning
to lose at least some measure
of my religious beliefs,
and I flipped through the pages thinking,
“Did they do this position or that one?”
before I had to slap the open pages
back together,
shove the book back under the old clothes
and push the drawer shut
with two strong hands.
I was a kid and I was suddenly thinking
about what only the weirdest kids liked to think about
when it came to mothers and fathers,
and I went upstairs,
checked out what was on TV,
looked through the records piled on top
of our Magnavox console stereo,
then went up to my room and considered
trying to read the most difficult book I had
on my bookshelf,
all in an attempt to change the subject
going through my young head.
Now when I think of wooden peg figures
I remember one television show—The CBS Evening News,
one record—”Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,”
and one book—Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment,
and how alive and warm we were
in those days I spent imagining
the lush, elegant rooms
where I might one day
bring the woman I love
and the intense but beautiful
labor it would take
in the grand and noble
cultivating and creating
of future generations.

-Jose Padua

Photograph of Cosme and Margarita Padua (circa 1950)