When I was in primary school in The Philippines, the best gauge for “storm signal #2” was when our neighbor’s coconut tree—visible through our bedroom window—swayed violently in the wind. It was during the #2 intensity that classes were cancelled for the day.
At the time, I roomed with two of my six sisters. Michi, the older room mate coined this phrase when school was called off: “WALANG PASOK SI MARIE CALICA!!!” (NO CLASSES FOR MARIE CALICA!!!) I don’t even remember how it started, but somehow the tradition of screaming this phrase continued through out each school-cancelling storm. Each time my Michi and Pinky saw our neighbor’s coconut tree swishing to and fro, seconds later there was always the chiming together of these famous five words: “WALANG PASOK SI MARIE CALICA!!!” I always had a good feeling when I heard this; it meant staying dry and safe in our home, and taking a break from the rigors of school.
Even as I got older and graduated high school and college, there would be occasional work-cancelling weather disturbances, or simple work-suspension holidays. Even if we no longer lived together, Michi and Pinky still managed to communicate their personal announcement to me—via phone call, pager message (hello, 90’s), or text message.
Today marks the first day of my maternal leave (my due date is in about 3 weeks’ time). For the first time in a long time, I don’t have to report for work (teaching yoga at a yoga studio I co-own in Basel, Switzerland—my home for the last 3.5 years). It’s a long way from those days where school was suspended, and yet here I am—42 years old and expecting my husband’s and my first child—waiting for my sisters to shout those playful words again.