Lovelynn Tan-Alvarez, also known as Love, was a practical lady. She hailed from Ilocos Norte, the second of four siblings, and graduated cum laude from the state university. She took up Computer Science back when it wasn't popular, acting on gut feel that it would be good for her career. And it was: she landed her first job in one of the biggest multinational IT companies in the country, starting at an entry level position. She worked there for almost thirty years, leaving the company twice but returning anyway, wiser and more prepared to do what she needed to do. She was an accomplished woman, known for her wit, sharp eye for details, and an ability to be ready for anything that came her way, making her one of the top female leaders of the company.
Love Tan-Alvarez was also my mom.
"I thought you would be home yesterday!" my older sister, Joy, told me in a hushed tone after Sunday mass that weekend. "It's surprising that Mommy didn't call me to look for you."
"That's because she kept calling me," I replied in a hushed tone as well since we were inside the church. The mass had ended about fifteen minutes ago, but it was the last morning mass and the church groups always gave away snacks to encourage parishioners to mingle. My parents were part of the particular church group that hosted this Sunday's brunch, so my siblings and I were still here.
"I had to clean my apartment yesterday," I continued, picking up my four-year-old niece, Diana. She had tugged at my skirt and when I looked at her, she gave me a sweet grin and lifted her arms, the universal action for "I don't care how heavy I am; pick me up!"
"Of course you scheduled it on a Saturday, when Mommy was obviously waiting for you to be home." Ate Joy raised an eyebrow at me. She was eight years my senior, a lawyer, and one of my staunchest cheerleaders. We were close, and that meant mediating between me and Mommy whenever there was tension between us.
"I didn't have any other time available, okay." I sighed. My niece played with my hair, humming a little carefree tune, oblivious to our conversation. Oh, kids.
"And don't lecture me with being at work when I was supposed to be on vacation. I've had enough of that in the past few days." Even my boss had lectured me about it, which was funny because we went on to discussing Phase 2 of the Iloilo mission after that.
"Anyway, I'm here, okay. I got home really early, in time for breakfast. Mommy made her signature hot chocolate, so she couldn't possibly be mad."
"You know better than to miss Sunday mass," was my sister's only response.
Of course I knew that. One of the cardinal rules in the Alvarez family, according to my mother, was that no one misses Sunday mass, unless it was an absolute emergency. And even if it was, you were expected to still try your absolute best to go. If all else failed, you better make sure you went to mass on your own because you will never hear the end of it from her. And we couldn't lie; she always knew when we were lying.
I had missed one too many Sunday family masses because of field work, but I had always done good with the second condition, making sure I heard mass when I was on the field. That should have placated Mommy, except she thought field work wasn't an emergency. Hence our many, many arguments about my job.
April, being the head Program Manager at work, used the vacation card to forbid me to join the field work that weekend and told me she won't approve my overtime pay. I would have done it even without the pay, until I found out that it was going to be led by Nico, and I wasn't quite ready to be around him. I still hadn't been able to look at him without cringing in embarrassment over everything that happened.
So with much reluctance, I finally went home and showed my face to my family. "Home" was in the southern part of the city, where I grew up. I moved out when I switched careers to development work, much to Mommy's dismay. I wasn't sure if she was more dismayed with me moving out or with my career shift, but I suspected it was the latter. After all, I was supposed to follow the great Lovelynn Tan-Alvarez's footsteps in the same company.
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