When you grow up amidst chaos, siblings either stick together or fend for themselves. My siblings and I chose the former. Birthdays, holidays, and weekends were our parents’ potential battlegrounds. Instead of physical aggression (against each other or us), there was constant psychological warfare.
Our parents screamed about each other’s families, parenting techniques, and money. They cursed in English and Tagalog. Mom slashed handbags that Dad gave her and ruined his silk ties into the bathtub. Dad punched walls and drove away, ignoring speed limits and traffic laws.
We retreated to my and Brie’s room to play. Raf read “The Spooky House Old Tree” aloud. Brie smiled, waving her toy ice cream cone in the air. I wrote in my Beauty & the Beast diary. On the few occasions that Raf and I would bicker, our mother protested.
“That is not how good siblings act. You love each other. Hug it out.”
There was rarely ever peace. Raf, Brie, and I relished the quiet moments. The fleeting laughs. We were conditioned to be on our best behavior at all times, lest our mistakes set off one of their fights. By the Christmas of 1993, I had assisted my mother in packing our clothes up three times, each time waiting on those steps by the door with my siblings bundled up in coats.
In spite of the fact that our parents couldn’t follow their own rule (if you love each other, you hug it out), we did. As adults, we’ve become each other’s confidantes and friends. I wouldn’t trade that for the countless days ruined by a volatile couple we begrudgingly called our parents.