The Mats

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The Mats by Francisco Arellana

For my family, Papa’s homecoming from his many inspection trips around the Philippines was always an occasion to remember. But there was one homecoming - from a trip to the south – that turned out to be more memorable than any of the others. Papa was an engineer. He inspected new telegraph lines for the government. He had written from Lopez, Tayabas: 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. I can hardly wait to show them to you…

After a few days Papa wrote again:
I am taking the Bicol Express tomorrow. I have the mats with me, and they are beautiful. I hope to be home to join you for dinner. Mama read Papa’s letter aloud during the noon meal. Talk about the mats flared up like wildfire. “I like the feel of mats,” said my brother Antonio. “I like the smell of new mats.” “Oh, but these mats are different,” said Susanna, my younger sister. “They have our names woven into them. There is a different color for each of us.”

A mat was not something new to us. There was already one such mat in the house. It was one we seldom use, a mat older than any of us. This mat had been given to Mama by her mother when Mama and Papa were married. It had been with them ever since. It was used on their wedding night and afterwards only on special occasions. It was a very beautiful mat. It had green leaf borders and gigantic red roses woven onto it. In the middle it said: Emilia y Jaime

The mat did not ever seem to grow old. To Mama it was always as new as it had been on her wedding night. The folds and creases always looked new and fresh. The smell was always the smell of a new mat. Watching it was an endless joy. 

Mama always kept that mat in her trunk. When any of us got sick, the mat was brought out and the sick child made to sleep on it. Every one of us had at some time in our life slept on it. There had been...
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