I was kind of stressed out during the day as I was pressed for time. We had the Holiday luncheon at work in the afternoon and the children’s Christmas concert at night.
In the morning Heather e-mailed me and asked if I was attending the luncheon. She invited me to join her, Christy and Dorothy. She and Christy were meeting before the luncheon and Dorothy would be saving them seats. I told her that I was meeting my friend E. That was very nice of her. She was thinking about me. The thing with working at home is that we lose regular contact with friends and when there are gatherings like this, we just have each other to mingle with. I am lucky that E was always there, keeping me company. Actually, she was the one who suggested that I meet her before the luncheon so that we could sit together.
I left at 1:00 p.m. First I went to the postal outlet at Shoppers Drug Mart. There was a line up and we were held up because the debit machines have been acting up. It was already 1:54 p.m. when I left Shopper’s. E and I were supposed to meet at her desk on the 10th floor at 2:00 p.m. There were lots of people waiting by the elevator – waiting for friends so that they could walk together to the luncheon. When Christy came out of the elevator, she said, “Come on, there’s nobody up there. Everybody’s gone.” I told her, “I’m meeting my friend upstairs. She’s waiting for me.” I missed the elevator going up. Another one opened and who came out. It was none other than J, Auntie Jayne’s twin. Hoy, dito ka na ba nag-tatrabaho? I thought that she was just working in the same building. I later realized that she’s with the same company. I told her that I was meeting my friend upstairs. Anong floor? Tenth floor. O duon ako galing. I missed the elevator again.
When I got to the tenth floor, E was very anxious to leave. Ba’t ngayon ka lang. Kung sinu-sino na ang tinawagan ko. Naku sorry ha! Ilang beses kasi ako na-iwan ng elevator.
We headed to the luncheon. We saw the tropa (girls) in one table. There was only one seat left. E sat with them. G and L were in the next table. I thought that there would be an extra seat for me. But there wasn’t. I stood there between the two tables for what seemed to me an eternity. I should have accepted Heather’s invitation earlier. Now I have nowhere to sit.
Ate C led me to her unit’s table. Hindi ko naman sila kilala. Eh di magpakilala ka. Instead of standing there in the middle of nowhere, I sat at the empty seat with all these strangers. I felt like an outcast. I look forward going to these gatherings to catch up with my friends and I felt that they didn’t feel that way. Or was I just being self-centered? The world doesn’t revolve around me. Later on Ate C came over and introduced me to the guy beside me. Pinoy pala. The girl on my other side was Pinay as well.
The Pinoy said, “Ilang taon na po kayo dito?” PO? Do I look that old? Of course, he was just being polite. I am still taken by surprise if adults say PO to me. The Pinoy did try to have short conversations with me, which was really very nice. And later during the conversation, he did tell me that I look young to have a 15-year old child. So, okay lang.
Most of the time, I was very uncomfortable. The thing with me is, I am very ill at ease with white people at these gatherings. I tend to be very quiet. Having one-on-one conversation is fine with me, but not a group setting like that. If we were all Pinoys, I could easily jump in and out of the conversation. Akala ko makaka-table ko yung tropa ng mga Pinay. Pero heto at pakiramdam ko ay itinapon ako dito. Himutok na himutok ako pero siyempre hindi ko ipinahalata. I understood that they did not intend to do that, but I felt really bad.
I sat there while they chatter. I saw Ate M. She was with a table of white people. Further up there, I saw my Kumareng Em with a group of white people as well. The two looked comfortable with them. I was just not. And then I remembered what Kumareng Em told me last summer when my other Kumare, N, came for a visit. She said, “My husband thinks you’re mataray.” Aray ko po. It bothered me that he thought that. But am I? That’s probably why they don’t come every time I invite them over. Well, maybe I am mataray, but with a certain subtlety. Although around white people, I am very shy and quiet. I need to develop my people skills especially with whites. But how can I develop it further when I have chosen to work at home? Although, I have no regrets. This is just one of the pitfalls of working at home. I still love being at home when the kids come home from school.
The food was okay. We had cream of mushroom soup, turkey with gravy, whipped potatoes. I didn’t eat the veggies –carrots, rutabaga, asparagus. I finished my cranberry maple mousse and it was good. The others barely touched theirs, claiming they were already full.
We were given envelopes, some of which indicated prizes, some not. I was lucky to get a prize. It was a Christmas ornament – a crystal-like reindeer with gold trimmings. It matches the decorations on my Christmas tree at home! I felt better when I opened my gift.
When I got up to claim my prize, I met up with E, who also got one. “Okay ka lang duon?” she asked. “Oo,” I lied. I couldn’t tell her my sentiments. How could I, when she was very accommodating and always trying to make me feel like I was still part of the group. Although, it hit me just then. I am no longer part of the group. She knew that and mentioned it in one of our conversations a long time ago. Yes, they welcome my presence whenever I am there, but I am no longer in their circle. I felt sad today. I felt the same sadness that I felt when my Kumareng N left for Calgary. N and I used to talk on the phone about kids, married life and other things. I was able to confide in her. Then she left. Then E and I got closer. And I am thankful for that because I am able to confide in her, too.