Hello from rainy Buenos Aires! It’s pouring cats and dogs here, an unconventional welcome to start my stay in this new city. As I nestle myself on the kitchen counter table typing this letter, I wonder how the weather is like in Rosario today. And whether you are in the pasadizo playing futbol like a prodigy, if you are cajoling everybody to watch your nifty moves, something you should be really proud of.
3.5 months ago, I first met you in the wee hours of the night when I arrived zombie-fied after 36 hours of travel. You were soundly snoozing in bed, literally sleeping like a baby. We officially met the next day and you flashed me your biggest, brightest smile. The first word you said was a shy “hi”, before launching forward to give me a big, warm hug. You probably didn’t know this but that big-hearted gesture of yours melted my displaced, confused heart, one that arose from being in a novel and foreign place with no knowledge of what to expect. Your little gesture made me feel instantly at home.
Part of my stay with your mummy and daddy was to spend time with you when they were away at work, busy ensuring everything went well in the language school so that you will have a comfortable and happy childhood. To be honest, it was my first time babysitting a then 4-year-old boy (you’re now 5!), and I had serious doubts about my abilities to do a good job. I never had the opportunity to hang out with young kids for extended periods of time (after all, my own god daughters are just getting past their toddler phases). Will I be patient and nurturing enough? Will I be able to understand what children want? Will I be a good enough mentor and instill good values? Will I say the wrong things? A zillion and one questions buzzed in my head.
But hanging out with you had always been such a breeze. You were easily the sweetest and most endearing boy I have met. In fact, you made all those silly doubts I previously had vanished in a flash. In the process of it, I learnt to be comfortable with who I am, and to trust that whatever I am doing when I am with you is as good as it is.
And boy, we sure did have fun together. I can’t even begin recalling all the things we did – drawing, colouring, revising how to write your name and 1 to 10 (and practising how to write them in a non-inverted way), watching cartoons, playing counting games, lego, jenga, memory (which I suck so bad), cars (repeat the same action of the pushing the car towards each other x100 times), dancing, singing, puppets, make-belief, etc. The list goes on.
Oh and you taught me how to play your favourite game of football. ME, PLAYING FOOTBALL. You probably didn’t know this but I never ever played that game (ok, maybe once in high school), because I am easily the clumsiest person around a ball. But of course I gave in to your incessant requests (“let’s play football! Again!”), and found myself really enjoying it one too many times. Now, I can actually kick a ball, long and far, thanks to your weekly training sessions! And I also found out that despite being left-handed, I am right-footed! Above all, you allowed me to embrace the kid in me again, to undo previous beliefs about myself and to venture into new territories with loads of gusto. You are such a rock star.
The thing is, you did nothing extraordinary. You were always just being you. You were open and candid in your requests, and were at times demanding of everything. You cried when you were upset, explored means to always get your way (sometimes to get out of trouble) and expressed your anger fervently when you were simply, pissed off. At the same time, you were also the kindest, most generous boy, with the warmest, biggest heart. You are brilliantly intelligent for your age, have an uncanny ability to look past the many layers people sometimes create and understood many things happening around you.
You are never apologetic for who you are, and that is what makes you so special.
I remember I was feeling less than complete and was morose sometime back. I was upset with myself for being far away from home when Singapore lost her founding father and my heart was in a mangle. I hung out with you one afternoon and when you asked me why I wasn’t in the mood to play, I told you, “I’m sorry, but I am just feeling sad today.” You asked me why. I couldn’t articulate it in a way that I thought could make you understand, so I replied, “I just feel sad.” You were silent for a second, as if internalising the information, but you didn’t ask more.
I was wrong, because you understood. You said nothing and suddenly extended your arms to give me a big, warm hug.
My heart melted, once again because of you. You have such a special ability to understand and embrace emotions. You are such a loving and compassionate boy.
So when you started wailing like a big baby when your mummy, sister and you were at the train station to send me off yesterday, I could not hold back my tears. Your tears were so genuine, your emotions were raw. I cried with you, because you reminded me to always embrace my emotions. We held that moment for as long as we could, before getting shoo-ed away for parking the car at a prohibited spot. We waved goodbye to each other amidst our tears through the car window. The image of your tiny hand swishing left and right as the car rolled away will always be etched in my memory.
Just so you know, the attendants who chased us away understood what we went through too. When I gained my composure and eventually made my way into the station thereafter, I passed the same group of men and muttered an apologetic “perdon”. They nodded, gave me empathetic smiles and replied something in Spanish which I was not in the frame of mind to process then. But I knew they understood, and that was all that mattered.
So thank you Juani, for being the special boy you are. For the beautiful sparkles in your eyes, your infectious chuckles and your darndest jokes. For teaching me to love generously, to openly express my emotions, and to always embrace the kid in me. You have given me so much that I can’t even quantify. I love you, very very much!
All my hugs, love and kisses, Jane
the family ❤