After lunch, these bumming-around days, I commute the dozen steps from our door to my son’s to begin my sweet-sour hour with Apo Andeng, the terror of a toddler who calls me “Wawa.”
Today, Andeng waits by the door. I play-act I don’t see her and walk past her. Winking, I ask Yaya Jo-ann where Andeng is, even as the little girl blabbers her heart out and tugs at my duster. Keeping up the pretence, I raise my voice to call out: “Andeng, Andeng, where are you, Andeng?” as I look around with unseeing eyes. Eventually, I tell the yaya: “Ay, sige, wala pala dito si Andeng” and heads for the door. When, on cue, she begins to wail, I freeze on my tracks and say: “Aba, nandyan ka pala, bakit nagtatago ka?” and scoops the now giggling, wiggling bundle. As I carry her home, I chide her: "You've wised up to this game your lola-gone-loca plays, haven’t you?"
If you ask me to describe Apo Andeng in a non-physical way, my patent answer is: “Ang batang mabait-bait na masalba-salbahe.” The truth! -- nothing but, so help me.
AT 1-1/2, my grandchild is a little princess of quirks. An awww-shucks sweetie pie one minute, generous with her kisses, gimme-fives, bless-bless and and ilong-ilong; and the next minute a little shrew who can outmatch me, padyak for padyak, belat for belat, “no-no-no-no” for “no-no-no-no.”
Today, she is all of the first, and my obligatory hour with her pleasantly stretches to two, then three and beyond.
Inside my room, she goes through our routine without protest. "Hep, hep" -- she lifts her arms high. "Hurray!" -- I tickle her armpit. "Hello Andeng, hello!" -- she makes a fist, presses it to her ear, and blabbers . "Bye, bye Andeng!" - "Baba," she imitates, bringing down the pretend-phone. "Ang baho, Andeng, baahooo!" -- she wrinkles her nose and goes "aaah-chooo!" There is more to her bag of tricks and she takes them all out: Where's the light? Where's the lizard? Kiss Wawa (mwaaah), embrace Wawa (uhmmm, sarap), untog Wawa (ouch, sakit!). Beautiful eyes, close-open, clo-jol, pongpong gasile-pinanganak kagabe.
All too soon, it's computer time, as she eyes the pc nearby. We play the funny-baby videos first -- you know, the type where babies chuckle like laughing bags that couldn't be turned off. I let her fuss with the keyboard and the mouse. By now, she knows she can help herself to the keys, except the power button.
Up next: music videos. And she dances on my lap in perfect beat to tone-deaf Wawa's eternal relief. After a surfeit of “All the single ladies,” “You’ll always be my baby” and other favorites, she goes down to roam her preferred nooks around the room, imperiously opening drawers and closet doors as though looking for contraband.
Inside one closet, she espies the box where her Tita Ninang Mylene keeps her bling-blings, points at it for me to take down. I comply with the royal wish and set the box down on the bed which she promptly climbs. That preoccupies her for half an hour – trying one bling on after another, stretching necklaces and bracelets to their limits, and finally succeeding in breaking one. I lie down beside the sitting princess, keeping watch, even as I worry how the Tita Ninang – also a royal pain in the you-know-what -- would react once she gets home and notices the broken whatnot.
Just then, Andeng puts all the stuff back to the box, then closes it, as I have taught her to do. She snuggles up to me, nuzzles one lola body part after another -- kitten like -- as though looking for the cosiest, settles for the stomach and falls asleep without warning. Just like that.
I let her nestle on me for a while, listening to the sound of her breathing, then ever so gently let her slide down to the mattress. She promptly turns on her side, laying a tiny hand on my waist, a tender foot on my thigh. I begin to drowse, too, and in the ambiguous neverland between waking and sleeping, wrapped in a child's feathery embrace, I see the world recede and I smile at it thinking it is very, very good.