We were about to traverse the little bridge, one of the most beautiful spots around the flora park, when he said deeply, ‘Hey, can I ask a favor?’I hadn’t observed his baritone voice until now. It surprised me hearing him.
Anyway, I nodded and asked, ‘What’s the favor?’
Then I gave him a reassuring hug.
‘The favor is:can you hug and kiss me when we get home? Not here. Not in public,’ he reminded me. His eyes were apologetic.
‘Ah, yes, my dearest. Sorry. Old habits die hard. You already said that to me a hundred times this morning,’ I laughed.
‘Just in case,’ he said plainly. His eyes gently warning me. I gave him my thumbs up.
We trudged along the little bridge, enjoying its scenery, as it arched daintily like a rainbow among the bed of roses in various hues of yellow, red, and blue.
He walked ahead of me this time. I had an excellent view of his strong back. How he’d grown so much taller as the years had passed by. His shoulders had broadened. He would soon be sixteen.
When he was newly born, his pediatrician diagnosed him as having weak lungs. So, we needed to stay for more days in the hospital after I gave birth. We spent our Christmas there. He was so frail in his crib with a mild lamp on and an IVF on his tiny leg. I was worried looking at him, struggling to inhale and exhale. But he was a fighter. He survived!
Growing up, he was a kid who loved to be hugged and to be kissed. He cried every time I went to work and would love to be cuddled right away when I get home. His tantrums were horrible; he randomly smacked everyone’s face. He was even jealous of his elder sister and often muttered his famous line, ‘Nobody loves me. I’m just a poor kid.’
Around the age of three, he was obsessing to gain that ‘Blues-Clues Thinking Chair’, the one popularized by the TV program. So, one time when he and his father were at the mall and he saw it, he brought it along with him and asked his father to buy it right away. It was, of course, an expensive item. When his father told him maybe next time, he fretted and then sat on the thinking chair crying. His father, embarrassed at the scene he made, bought it. The kid knew his game well. He was victorious.Terrible threesindeed!
When he was around six, he asked me if he could keep a cat because he thought he needed a friend. But I refused him because I have an allergy to pet hairs. I could get sick. His eyes became sad. But he relented and said, ‘I don’t want you to get sick. It’s okay.’ The kid had become tender and considerate as he grew.
And now he didn’t want me kissing and hugging him in public because he’s a bona fide teenager!
He looked back at me this time. He noticed I trailed. Fixing his eyes upon my leather bag, he asked, ‘Do you need help with your carrying that?’
‘It’s okay, and besides, what will girls think if you carry this?’ I replied. I pursed a teasing grin.
‘Whatever. You’re lagging. I thought that it might be heavy. And I don’t care what girls will think about me. It’s my mom’s bag,’ he said. He carried my handbag.
In grade school years, his teachers would tell me he was everyone’s favorite. Once, when I came to collect him from school, a certain girl named Marcella came and told me, ‘I like him. He’s cute.’ The girls were giggling hearing Marcella’s revelation.
I walked ahead. He was behind me. I took a glance at him. He was a handsome young man. His eyebrows were thick, black, and well arched. His skin was fair-toned. His button nose fitted well with his oval face. His hair was dense, clean, shiny and pitch-dark. His eyes wore, as always, the expression of sympathy; tender, yet he rarely smiled. His physical attributes appeared to be fifty percent his great grandfather’s and fifty percent his dad’s.
I looked up at him. He was enjoying watching the Maya birds playing and perching among the pine trees.
‘Remember you once gave me a colorful bird in a lovely cage?’ he recalled.
‘Yes. It died after a week and you cried!’ I replied.
‘Of course, because our home was not its natural habitat,’ he said. The kid knew lots of things now.
The sun got warmer around ten in the morning.
‘Hey, I think you need an umbrella?’ he said.
He tried catching up with my pace.
‘Wow, what a gentleman you’ve become. How lucky your lady will be, I’m jealous,’ I said.
I was about to hug him, when he whispered, ‘Hey, it’s best to hug me at home, okay?’
‘Ah, yes, yes. Sorry. I forgot what you told me,’ I beamed.
‘Let me carry my bag now, your hands are full,’ I said. He gave the bag back to me.
We continued walking side by side while he held the umbrella. Ahead of us was the wide, open field of green Bermuda grasses.Our paces synchronized.
My son was not my baby anymore. He’d grown up into a fine, healthy young man who could take good care of himself; and me, until my twilight years!