I’m looking at an old leather covered photo album. It’s seen better days. The pictures, large old black and whites, are in excellent shape, but I think every bug between here and Manila has had a chomp at the covers.
The frontspiece is dated, Manila PI, 1957. Kim was 2. The first photograph is a picture of a sign that says CARMELENCE VILLA, 450 Lamayan. Sta.Ana Manila. The second shot is the broad private Avenue in front of the house. It was large estate on the Pasig River. There were three houses, ours was the first on the left, Carmen Melencia’s daughter lived in the house across the way on the river and the Thai Ambassador lived in the mansion next door, also on the river. Our house was not on the river. The setting behind our house was a landscaped jungle, hanging exotic orchids in every tree, and a twelve foot rock wall between us and the traffic snarled Santa Ana streets. Between the house and the wall was a large blue kidney shaped swimming pool-but I’m getting ahead of the story. At the street end of our Avenue were two enormous steel gates with a gateman who slept in a guard house twenty four hours a day and opened the gates for the likes of us.
The Avenue scene, opening shot, shows two kids, Billy on a scooter scooting, and a darling little blonde girl, barefoot and in a casual designer outfit with her back turned to the camerman in a halfway skipping jump with a whirligig in her hand. No traffic problem here.
The next six photos are of staff, three amahs, the cook, with a black eye, a sleeping siamese cat in her arms, my husband and Kim’s three older siblings. The next picture is the star of the show, Kim. The most beautiful little curly haired blonde you ever saw. Dressed to the nines, black MaryJane’s, white socks, a starched and ruffled pinafore and the sweet natured siamese cat, sleeping in the last picture, that she hauled around by the neck twenty four hours a day. She stood-full shot- center stage in front of tall wrought iron sliding screen doors that opened on a tile courtyard, trees dripping orchids, a fireplace dripping bouganvillia and the swimming pool. The rest are all family.
Two of my favorites are of Kim and her brothers fighting over a water bucket with a little pet goat looking on. He was the cook’s favorite. He got a shot of Bill’s favorite Scotch every morning for breakfast. He died happily of alcohalism at an early age.
The cork story? With a pool in the vicinity it’s imperative that all kids know how to swim. Kim’s brothers and her sister were born swimming, I think. Kim? She was always the different one. She loved the water-was always in the pool- but she couldn’t swim for beans. What she would do is take a flying happy leap in, hit bottom, bounce up, take a deep breath-us, too- sink like a rock, bounce, take a breath, sink, bounce, sink, bounce and make it side to side and end to end. We called her Kimmie the cork.