WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: The eyes of a child

I gave her a long essay to encode. It was submitted by a foreign student as an introspective exercise into his life experiences. It wasn’t a technically perfect essay, but my class was not technical writing. I gave it a perfect 100 for meeting beyond expectations the requirement for the exercise. That paper was a motherlode of life experiences that shaped his values, attitudes, and behaviors. It touched on family interactions, the traditions of his community, the educational system, and the political history of his troubled country, and how all these impacted on his life. I was hoping to edit it for publication in the school paper. The author had agreed.

So for two days, Sage diligently worked at typing the essay. Ever so often, I’d hear her incredulous gasp, sometimes accompanied by an exclamation. Sometimes, the import of what she was processing would just be too much for her. She’d call out a question or a request for an explanation.

It was some days before I saw Sage’s note left for me in the computer. The file name reads “MOM, READ THIS AT ALL COST – LOVE, SAGE”. The note says:

Mom, your student —– — has an open mind and a life that has been tattered and torn. However most of the parts of his life are very funny yet are very dangerous. I guess you could try talking or giving him some advice, yet I cannot believe an intelligent boy like him could at least have wrong grammar in English. However, I understand he is a —-ese boy and yet that he hates his own people is a rare fact. He is the first one I have heard of that hates his own country. I believe most people have no intention of hating their own country, but dream of being better people and thus bringing their own country or city up. AAAZAAAAAAAAAH!

Sage is sleeping. Much as I’d like to wake her up to talk about this, she’s nine years old and it’s past midnight. She needs her sleep. So here I find myself typing this reply. We’re sharing the same roof, and yet this is like emailing each other.

Hi, Sage. Yes, —– — has had a hard life, as did most people in his country. He comes from —–, but it does seem obvious that he does not really consider —– his country, doesn’t it? It seems to merely be a convenient place name to give when he is asked where he comes from. You see, he comes from that part of —– that used to be called —— State. It is a small place that got taken over by the —-ese and so now the people there have to call themselves —-ese also and do what the —-ese require them to do. That does not sound right, does it? And, oh, they don’t speak or write English where he went to school. I think he had to learn to do that so he could study here. You’re right that he’s intelligent. So I guess, English and intelligence do not necessarily go together. Mwah!

Sage is yet to finish typing the essay. She doesn’t have the time now since she’s back in school. She has other concerns which – you guessed it – I get to read about. People say it’s modeling since she lives in a house with two parents who earn their living at writing. Truth is, Sage is already a published writer, too, in her own right. Her school paper recently carried one of her poems and a short essay she wrote about teachers.

I don’t sweat anymore what Sage is reading and what she is learning from those materials. At least, she takes the time to read the classics. Heck, she reads anything and everything, even the hype printed on cereal boxes. Like her Dad, she processes for meaning, and she would often state first her premise before launching on her conclusion. She asks a lot of questions. It makes for interesting conversations all round.

Like at dinner tonight, she asked me what a diaphragm is. I pointed at my midsection. Puzzled, she asked if I could take it out and leave it on the bathtub.

I asked for the context and she showed me a passage in Meg Cabot’s ‘The Princess Diaries’ where Mia wrote about the evidences she saw of her mom’s birth control methods. I described to her what that kind of diaphragm looks like, what it does and where it’s supposed to go.

“Why are you whispering?” she asked.

Why, indeed. Maybe because your Dad is listening? (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to [email protected] gmail.com. This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)

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