BOY TURNS 9…
The Family Files
Middle of last August, the boy reached nine years. He’s now almost a decade old – time flies faster than the Green Lantern...
It took a while for the delinquent dad to post his pics and write about Rio’s big day, but finally here it is.
Months before his birthday, Rio was asked by his mum what he wanted to do on his special day. He said he really hadn’t thought about it, but he said "Please, no clowns or games or mascots or balloons. Especially not loot bags..."
Obviously he was saying he was no longer a boy. I wondered aloud and said maybe it was time to give him some whiskey. Rio said "I'm older but not old!"
Rio’s a big boy now. His routines and pastimes are more defined, and his habits speak more and more about who he is and what his interests are.
I’m happy that he’s still so far the only boy I know who would turn down an uninterrupted afternoon of Sony Play Station time if he had a great book to read. In fact he has taken to reading with such gusto that he is now exchanging books with his uncle and his mum’s pops (his mum also gets to read Rio’s books every now and then.)
Rio loves fantasy novels and science fiction, which is of course just fabulous. It’s one of the most liberating and underrated genres ever and many of its writers are among the most visionary and stubborn people the planet has ever known. He'll get more smarts from such books, and tougher lessons too. (That's Rio with a Gen. Macario Leon Sakay shirt on, which was issued to commemorate the centennial of the Filipino revolutionary's death -- hanged in 1907 by American invaders and the native elite. Kala and I named Rio after Sakay.)
Rio somehow reads almost everything he sets his eyes on. Like me, he tends to read all the details and ingredients on the back labels of shampoos and cereal boxes.
A stray political manifesto in the house provokes questions over dinner. Old newspapers make him wonder aloud about who is stealing again in government. Comic strips delight him and make him go searching for his ever missing sketchpad, and brochures or flyers about a housing project or new product make him ask about humankind’s capacity for stupid inventions and real estate.
There was a day when all the kids, including Luna, were romping about our street, which was then under construction. Water gun play, hide and seek, climbing gravel mountains – the works. You will see Rio in one of the pics here -- in the middle of kids chasing kids -- in the midst of youthful tumult, Rio is standing by his lonesome on a cement block quietly reading Tolkien's Return of the King...
He finally decided just a week before his big day how he wanted to celebrate his ninth year.
Rio said he wanted to go out with his gang and treat them to humongous sandwiches, buffalo wings, fries and milk shakes, after which, he said, they should go to Station 168, his favored gaming place.
And so on the designated date, I watched Rio and the boys goof around all day, boisterous and rowdy and ever hungry.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if they actually ate the table cover. (I think one of them wolfed down a whole sandwich including the wrapper...)
At the gaming station, they were in Seventh Heaven. Rio did the job of policing the games they played – he asked his chums to avoid the spectacularly nasty, stupid stuff such as Grand Theft Auto where you get points for beating up old women and running over pedestrians while stealing cars and so on.
The kids played for hours, laughing and squealing and throwing paper missiles at each other while I tried in vain to write notes on a chapter of a second book. I ended up walking around a lot to laugh with the boys, who kept swiveling around in their seats to taunt each other and to laugh some more.
What a day.
It was his best birthday celebration ever, Rio said. And his classmates agreed. One even whispered to me as I walked him to his guardian: "Tito Red, it was the best day of my life!”
I walked around later with a spring in my step.
“Can we do this again next year?” Rio asked when we got home.
But of course my son. Surely. But of course. #