A Little Boy who fell down from Heaven
My comfort and joy incarnate.
Oh, it was months—no, years—that I prayed for him. Prostrate by the bed, I asked the Lord for him. I pleaded with my young lips; with juvenile reasoning and youthful yearning, I presented the matter point-blank to the listening Almighty, necessity driving boldness driving desperation. I wanted a brother—no, I needed a brother, another boy to play with, share pranks with. I wanted to be needed, looked up to. I had all the toys a boy could ever want; sure, they filled my time shortly after purchase, but what of two weeks after? A new toy then? No. My robot couldn’t answer me back when I talked to it. My miniature kitchen set couldn’t even cook real food. (I tried it once after watching how Ma did it in the big kitchen. I poured a little oil over the plastic skillet as she did. I looked for the knob-thing that switched the flames on, and when I found mine, no matter how many times I turned it, it wouldn’t give. After a few more times, I gave up.) I needed a toy that was walking, talking, breathing, moving, jumping, crying, dancing, giggling. I needed a brother.
He arrived, huge, round, and covered in a woolen blanket, as pink, plump, and perfect as a baby could ever be. If the stork flew him inside the house, it would’ve had a tough time getting in with all the broken glass shards on the edge of the walls. Not to mention the baby’s weight when he came into this world. An enormous 9 pounds of skin, fat, and bones.
Back from our ancestral home in Malabon (we were sent to our grandparents to be cared for while Ma and Pa were in the hospital), I couldn’t have ran fast enough as my heart started to thump in vigorous drum beats knowing my much-awaited prayer was finally inside. I flew out the car, over the driveway, and into the house. The house helps tried to plead with me not to make so much noise as I entered the living room, but my mind was so filled with the desire to see my new present that it was just impossible to pay them any attention. I took my shoes off in a scurry, dropped them by the door and on the floor to abide to Ma’s rule, and ran for dear life towards the bedroom across the hall. I knew they were keeping him there because a maid just came out of the room carrying some blankets and an empty milk bottle.
With my socks still on, I drew a deep breath, closed my eyes and mouthed a quick prayer (well, just in case my baby brother didn’t turn out the way I dreamt he would, I still had to thank the Lord), noiselessly turning the door knob. I tiptoed into the room and tried to avoid looking at the bed and what lay on it just yet. Ma was already up, walking to me with misting eyes filled with joy and love. She whispered to my ear, with a soft voice (which was and still is not natural to her) just enough for me to hear, ‘Ahia, your prayer’s there, lying on the bed. He’s awake now, just woke up a few minutes before I heard you come in. I think he knew you were coming. Go ahead and take a look at your Shoti.’ My heart was beating so fast she must’ve heard it, for she gently rubbed my back as I approached the bed. I never knew that there existed such love as great as that inside my heart when I first laid my eyes on him. An eight-year old boy could never have understood.
Rosy red in the cheeks, snowy white in complexion, and a body with rolls and rolls of fat as that of the Michelin Tires icon, this Pilsbury gift caught my eye, heart, and soul. His giggles would never escape me, prodding me on to laugh with him for no other reason but the music of his cackle. His heavy, sac-like cheeks that seemed to be always filled with food (only that it was not food that filled it but sheer fat), tempted me to maddening fits of what we Filipinos call gigil. Those almond-shaped eyes peeked from beneath delicate eyelids, opening and closing with the fluttering of eyelashes like butterfly wings. In each rise and fall of this gentle infant’s laughter, I heard God’s word. In each periodic heave of his chest, I saw God’s love. In each shuffling this tot did as he lay there on the bed, I felt God’s touch. God was there, all the time, and I knew it. I sensed it from the moment little John Peter came into my life.
The days that came after that were just so filled with wonder; it would be inadequate for a novel of a thousand pages or even more to describe what joy each new day brought. I would snuggle up to him as he took his afternoon nap and just hold him by me, feeling the warmth of his body. I would never have dared to play with his limbs for fear of breaking them as I had done to my old action figures. (Many times I have cried over action figures that had lost their limbs when I spun them round and round just for the fun of it. One loss that haunts me till now is my Power Rangers First Edition Mega-Robot. It had those nice retractable arms and functional legs that made it so much fun to play with. It could be disassembled into the five animal robots that joint together to form it. It was the envy of my play group. In those years, when a kid had it, he was considered cool.) I only got around to holding him on my arms positioned as a cradle when Ma taught me how to do it the right way.
Soon enough, after that brief lesson in child-cradling, I held him for hours on end, touring him around the house. I brought him to the living room, dining room, kitchen, and the bedrooms, telling him which was which along the way. I would go on to give him these tours everyday, waiting for the day he learns how to walk and is old enough to run around and play with me. I was so ready to share my toys with him that, I believe, if my playmates found out they would think I was losing it.
Before I knew it, he was running around, chasing me with my water gun that was never loaded with water (for Ma would just have run amok if the floors were dirtied). He would shriek as he caught me in a corner and shot me with invisible water. I would feign death and drop to the floor, not moving a muscle until he reached for me and checked if I was okay. I would stay there like that for a couple of minutes to make him nervous then come back to life with a jump and startle him to shrieks of surprise. He would laugh all the way back to our room as I chased him with the water gun in my hand and made squirting sound with my mouth. We would play like this for the rest of the time after I got home from school everyday. These hours of running around with the water gun or sitting around, playing with my old toys were the times I would look forward to in a day.
There was just no dull moment or unmemorable day with my new baby brother. He soon went to school himself and spent less time at home, but as soon as I came home from school everyday, I knew he would be home waiting for me. There would be less and less time for playing but I still spent my whole afternoons with him, helping him with his homework or helping him review his new lesson. I would put him to sleep every night and lay beside him to gaze on his bulging cheeks and closed eyelids, sleeping hours after he’s dozed off, playing in dreamland. I would pray every night, thanking God for giving me such an adorable gift, and for giving me a wonderful reason to believe in Him for the rest of my life.
Now, nine years after that fateful span of bliss, pretty much nothing has changed. I still feel the same way every time he laughs, plays around, and snuggles against me every night. His giggles still resound in my heart long after its music fades, his kisses on my cheek still glow with warmth long after they’re wiped off with a towelette. His mischievous stares still amuse me till now.
His cheeks may not bulge as greatly as before. His form may not conform to the design of the Michelin tire icon. He may wear glasses over his almond-shaped eyes now. He may have lost a little of the weight that served as his buoys in infancy. His fingers may be longer now and a lot less sausage-like as when he was but a wee toddler. He may be flooding me with questions about Emilio Aguinaldo, Ninoy Aquino, Ramon Magsaysay, and the other lot of them for his Sibika assignment instead of just staring at me, bemused with my pick-a-boo trick, and cackling at the slightest tickle. His grip may be a lot stronger now than when I first slipped a finger on his palm. He may be trying to peek at what I am typing now, curious to read what I am doing a few minutes before bedtime, as opposed to just staring blankly at the flashing screen when he was still a baby. He may be a little disobedient now, especially in sending him to bed at nine, as compared to the automatic sleeping habit he had before. He may be all this and a less of that, but I love him just the same, if not, even greater.
“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
Whatever may happen
My baby you’ll be”
My comfort and joy incarnate.