Day #1: Twelve Round Fruits
Updated: Jan 2, 2021
Twelve Round Fruits
We wore polka-dot dresses, my mother and I, every New Year’s eve. She wore one religiously and without fail at the end of every year, the same way she made sure there were twelve round fruits displayed in a fruit bowl as that night’s table centerpiece.
I remember the holidays as fraught with food shopping, though there were no new dishes or anything fancy—just the same queso de bola my mother was fond of, a special ham that everyone bought during Christmas, and twelve different, round-shaped fruits.
For good luck, she said. My mother hardly cooked, but this time she would peer at the fruit section of the supermarket with a careful eye, determined to secure this spherical dozen. The discovery of an orange, a melon, a lime, a chico or star apple—all round, obviously—was met with a satisfied crow as my mother placed them carefully in the cart.
Once, it fell short of twelve. “We only have eleven,” my mother fretted, surveying the neat stacks again. The bananas and pineapples, available all year round, didn’t count. “What if we end up with bad luck next year?”
I shrugged in casual surrender, mildly bewildered at my mother’s distress. So what, I said.
But my mother wasn’t done. She was silent in the car, brewing something in her mind.
Long after, I would find myself resisting the urge to gather the twelve round fruits every New Year’s eve. But I broke the tradition easily; on the first year of my marriage, there were only mangoes on the last meal of the last day of the year.
It took years for me to understand my mother, and why she believed in such. It took me years to realize that my mother had been in emotional pain most of her life, and that she was desperate for anything that could alleviate it. To her, these fruits on New Year’s eve might perhaps not just give her luck, but change it.
As for the missing fruit, my mother was clever. The set was complete before the clock struck twelve that New Year’s eve. The twelfth addition? A calamansi.