By Francisco Arcellana
For the Angeles family, Mr. Angeles'; homecoming from his periodic inspection trips was always an occasion for celebration. But his homecoming--from a trip to the South--was fated to be more memorable than, say, of the others.
He had written from Mariveles: "I have just met a marvelous matweaver--a real artist--and I shall have a surprise for you. I asked him to weave a sleeping-mat for every one of the family. He is using many different colors and for each mat the dominant color is that of our respective birthstones. I am sure that the children will be very pleased. I know you will be. I can hardly wait to show them to you."
Nana Emilia read the ...view middle of the document...
They had such a mat in the house, one they seldom used, a mat older than any one of them.
This mat had been given to Nana Emilia by her mother when she and Mr. Angeles were married, and it had been with them ever since. It had served on the wedding night, and had not since been used except on special occasions.
It was a very beautiful mat, not really meant to be ordinarily used. It had green leaf borders, and a lot of gigantic red roses woven into it. In the middle, running the whole length of the mat, was the lettering: Emilia y Jaime Recuerdo
The letters were in gold.
Nana Emilia always kept that mat in her trunk. When any one of the family was taken ill, the mat was brought out and the patient slept on it, had it all to himself. Every one of the children had some time in their lives slept on it; not a few had slept on it more than once.
Most of the time the mat was kept in Nana Emilia's trunk, and when it was taken out and spread on the floor the children were always around to watch. At first there had been only Nana Emilia to see the mat spread. Then a child--a girl--watched with them. The number of watchers increased as more children came.
The mat did not seem to age. It seemed to Nana Emilia always as new as when it had been laid on the nuptial bed. To the children it seemed as new as the first time it was spread before them. The folds and creases always new and fresh. The smell was always the smell of a new mat. Watching the intricate design was an endless joy. The children's pleasure at the golden letters even before they could work out the meaning was boundless. Somehow they were always pleasantly shocked by the sight of the mat: so delicate and so consummate the artistry of its weave.
Now, taking out that mat to spread had become a kind of ritual. The process had become associated with illness in the family. Illness, even serious illness, had not been infrequent. There had been deaths...
In the evening Mr. Angeles was with his family. He had brought the usual things home with him. There was a lot of fruits, as always (his itinerary carried him through the fruit-growing provinces): pineapples, lanzones, chicos, atis, santol, sandia, guyabano, avocado, according to the season. He had also brought home a jar of preserved sweets from Lopez.
Putting away the fruit, sampling them, was as usual accomplished with animation and lively talk. Dinner was a long affair. Mr. Angeles was full of stories about his trip but would interrupt his tales with: "I could not sleep nights thinking of the young ones. They should never be allowed to play in the streets. And you older ones should not stay out too late at night."
The stories petered out and dinner was over. Putting away the dishes and wiping the dishes and wiping the table clean did not at all seem tedious. Yet Nana and the children, although they did not show it, were all on edge about the mats.
Finally, after a long time over his cigar, Mr. Angeles rose from his...