Gab turned six last June, one day after school opened and welcomed her as a first grader. She has joined her brother in a progressive school located in Antipolo. Their classes started later than in most other schools, and they are now only on their fifth week, excluding the week when classes were suspended for four days due to Typhoon Glenda (international name: Rammasun). Gab was quick to settle into her new school, as we had expected. I have always admired how she easily adapts to any person and environment. She’s not one to fret or become anxious about being left at school on the first day, as she’s the chameleon type, blends well in just about any place and crowd.
Except for the usual battle we have over waking up and getting ready in the morning, every single day has been a happy one, peppered with lots of anecdotes. Her stories have become more detailed, pertaining to this and that classmate. She now knows all the names of her classmates, teachers, and even the manong that she refers to as Kuya Bok. Kuya Bok is apparently the one who brings her and her classmates snacks from the canteen. Yesterday, she told me that Kuya Bok is the “maintains.” “Ah, maintenance,” I corrected her, recalling seeing school staff wearing pink shirts with the word “maintenance” printed on the back.
It was on the second week, I think, when, at the dinner table, she engaged her brother in a pagalingan banter, and asked, in a she-knows-you-don’t tone, “Do you know what a “paradise” is?” Kuya was quite taken aback by the question, wondering perhaps what prompted Gab to ask. Earlier that day, Gab was telling me, on the way home from school, what protozoans are, and how they can make the tummy ache. Knowing where she was coming from, I laughed and jumped in, explaining to Kuya that Gab meant to ask what a parasite was, not paradise. Kuya gamely shared what became a joke between us (to be shared with their dad later), and laughed with me. And Gab went on to explain about good and bad germs she saw under a microscope—another new and exciting word for her.
Gab seems to have learned a lot about the human body over the course of her first few weeks into grade school, proudly sharing her new learnings and singing to me songs about the skin, eye, ears and brain. Last Wednesday, she was so happy to share that she cooked spaghetti at school, and it was so yummy, she finished her share. She was made to bring tomato sauce, spices and a food container. She came home with just a dirty (with a few spaghetti noodle bits) food container.
I look forward to fetching Gab from school. She’s still full of energy at dismissal and would want to linger and eat lunch with Kuya at the canteen. I just sometimes wish she would still look as immaculate as she is when I drop her off. But, each time also, she’d be in various states of disarray, whether it’s her long hair strands that escaped her braids or pony tails, or her knee-high black socks pulled down to her ankles, or her stained white polo, or muddy black shoes, or combinations of these. And I just have to accept the child that she is, and that I can’t, no matter how I try, get her to stay put, prim and proper, and get herself the “Most Orderly” award that I got during kindergarten. Gab is nothing like me as a child. And, honestly, I’m happy about that.
Last Monday, Gab did something that amazed me and got me a bit weak in the knees, awed at her braveness. They have a weekly school assembly, like a flag ceremony, where there is a class designated each Monday to give a presentation—a skit, song, or dance, with a theme about values. The value that was presented last Monday was “prudence.” After the presentation, the school principal gave a short message to reiterate the importance of the “value” that had just been demonstrated. When the principal threw the first question, “What is prudence?,” I was watching the program from outside the gate and heard the principal remark, “Yes, Gabee?” I looked closely, and lo and behold, it was my Gabee being called to the front to answer. It took her a few seconds to reach the principal and speak on the microphone. She spoke in a very soft voice, I didn’t catch what she said, but the principal repeated it, saying that Gab said prudence was about loving. Not exactly correct, but in a way connected. That was how Gab understood it based on the skit which had some students dressed as angels with halos. That’s Gab. I hope she stays that way, confident and happy.