He comes home not from the front door to see his children huddle, play or watch a cartoon show from the tv. Into the kitchen door where he finds his wife facing the stove a pot of boiling rice in one burner while the other a hissing frying pan a whole fish its head and tail simmering in a hot oil.
My father’s grease filled face, a concoction of gasoline, dust, dried perspiration, heat and humidity after a days’ work in a nearby garage is an indication of his presence, a starving stomach leads him into the kitchen/dining room where dinner should be served soon. He sees this big dining table, our kitchen’s basic furniture with eight sets of plates, forks and spoons strategically located around for all seven children. In a few minutes this room will come alive spoons, forks, glasses and plates clicking against one another, while our mouths stops spewing out words as morsels of food are shoveled in.
Our dining table is made from local narra wood, while its formica covered surface has the design of a continuous vertical scallops in alternate shades from light to dark brown, with appendant eight chairs now gone and substituted with two long benches. My parents bought it to accommodate all of us three times a day as we celebrate family life. Who sits where is marked by tiny finger grease stains I discovered underneath one day while playing hide and seek with my siblings.
When not full of chopping mouths, it is my mother’s working table for cutting fabric as she gets work sewing for the neighbor’s clothes or curtains or my father’s for his paper work. However, most important is how it serves as our homework table. On most days when I get home from school before dinner after everybody’s done their own business I clean it and lay down all my notebooks, pen and paper to begin my study rites. As my parents explicitly promises, providing a good education is the only legacy they could afford for us, our only tool as we have to make our name in this world.
We all love school proof of which are various medals and awards we often get. But as I got older, a passing grade became my maximum goal like all thousands of regular kids enrolled in public school. Except for math other subjects is shooting a breeze for me but without any intention of going after the medals. However, my brother’s abrupt promotion to the first section where the supposedly brightest and smartest are gathered pushed me into digging my heels deeper to show that I, too, am made of the same genius genes.
In any math subjects I sit in front hoping to get the edge and catch whatever secret the teacher may spill. I show interest and was never embarrassed in asking questions to understand the concepts of math. As soon as I get home, I go back to my notes and retry solving math problems use procedures and processes I suppose relevant to acquiring that proficiency like my brother has, apparently, were absent in my dna. If I ever did asked his help that dna may have been in trauma and may have ceased functioning.
As my father comes through the kitchen calling out my mother’s name signaling his arrival, he keenly notices me and from the corner of my eyes I could see that proud, happy and delighted look having responsible, studious and conscientious daughter. Qualifications prophesying a successful future completely different from what they themselves went through.
Today a few minutes before dinner is served, on the edge of the table he sees my head bowed down fingers busily scribbling figures in a notebook never wasting any minute of my free time, my father’s face glad that his efforts are not going in vain, he is not failing in raising his children well.
What my father never see is a notebook hidden in between, my brother’s last years math homework notebook. When school term ended last year I save it initially for reference only. As soon as I get my homework I check for any similarities and modifications against his and to my surprise all lessons and topics were exact replica of what is given to us. And so with the solutions. Talking about getting served on a silver spoon. This leaves me with no other option. But to copy.
Predictably I passed my high school just higher above the passing marks. And thanks to that dining table that helped me through all those years.