None of my boys smoke weed, drink beer, go mall-hopping or take car rides at two in the morning with a bunch of motorheads talking to each other in a language only a Formula 1 crew at a pit stop would understand. I haven’t heard them talk about RPM, horsepower and the joys of breaking in a two-liter engine from a Euro 5-compliant manufacturer. They talk about basketball sometimes and actually play the game some weekends with friends, yes, and sometimes I hear them talk about girls in terms that the local parish priest would not object.
When I was growing up, our prepubescent discussions centered on where babies come out from, with one faction claiming they are ejected from the anus and the other insisting they come out of you know where. The boy who said babies come out fully clothed from the front door was laughed out of the room and years later he would be among the first from our batch of unwitting post-partum discussants to marry and prove us all wrong.
These days kids merely grab a mobile phone, key in the information they need and, voila, it is there, centerspread. Full HD. As prepubescents, we used our imagination, and my goodness were they all imaginary. But we were good. Setting aside the discussion on genitalia, some of us were experts in watercraft manufacture, kite design, cannonball warfare, rubber band and tin can magic shows and all-day swimming in the Visayan Sea when its beaches were plastic debris-free and none of the inter-island sea craft dumped their garbage at night and thought no more of the underwater creatures that would suffer from it as a result.
One boy, Berto, claimed he could fashion a toy helicopter out of a big branch of guava and for some time I believed him. He would tell me about it for weeks and I was fascinated by how clever he was crafting a toy aircraft from out of a tree and making it fly like it did in my gullible mind. Years later, when we were in high school, I would hear him meeting this wonderful girl, just as smart as he was, and that they planned on marrying. I would go on with my own life crafting sailing boats and flying things from coconut husks, palm fronds and assorted tree branches that my cousin Ramil, whose mother had much money to spare, would lust after. Tia Tingting would later come to the house and make me an offer I cannot refuse. I would often merely give the object of his desire to his mother who was, after all, my aunt and build myself another. Later, when I was already married and he was struggling to find himself in work and various relationships, we would reflect on this hobbyist’s transactions over a gallon of tuba and laugh about it.
There was also Kuya Joe from Gagalangin in Tondo, who would help me build a parol one Christmas, and it was such beauty it was paraded around town with many other handcrafted beauties by local craftsmen. I could not begin to construct that award-winning parol myself with my small and unskilled hands, but I would help in gluing the delicate colored paper exquisitely cut by a Bulakeño whose brother has made my first cousin, Porcing, sing. While in construction, I would translate the Tagalog sinulid and the pako that he needed to make a five-pointed Yuletide star before a clueless store clerk who knew no Tagalog, endangering a project that eventually came out twinkling still long after the season was over.
I would discuss the events of that Christmas when we were married adults one autumn in California with Kuya Boy, Kuya Joe’s elder brother and my cousin’s husband, over a bottle of red wine, and how that Christmas project in Leyte a long time ago has remained a work in progress. Their marriage has produced three wonderful kids, all girls, now all married and living happy lives. Save for one, none of my own kids have married and it’s ok. We keep in touch. We check on one another. We remember. Life is good. It’s not as if someone is trying to sell me a helicopter made of wood.