A son's gift for the new year. For Ie Agcaoili.

A son's gift for the new year. For Ie Agcaoili.
I HAVE ASKED my kids not to give me anything for the holidays. 
I have reached a point where I do not think I need anything, and even if I did, I have found ways to be liberated from these things. The only exception are books, coffee, and tea. 
Not my cup of tea now, this gift-giving that only reinforces the conspiracy between capitalism and the holidays. 
They did not give me anything--and they did too! 
I have always asked them one thing: just a letter, or a Christmas card. I thought this was a better way of making memories, of arresting the passing of time. I would bring out their letter when they were younger, and their innocence would flood me, the years of my absence in their young life filling my heart with a longing that has no name. 
Must have been the sentimental me, preferring words to objects, choosing poetry anytime over anything that pretty soon finds its way to the shelf, or the stockroom. 
But right under the Christmas tree, there were gifts for me. 
My son wanted me to open the wrapped box he placed there on Christmas Day, but I told him I wanted to open it on New Year's Day. 
That day came. 
And there in that box were a mug that said "Number 1 Dad," a can of the best green tea in town, and a book of poetry that talks about the gift of life and the existential question of its meaning. 
He is a French guy, the poet. 
And there in the labyrinthine ways of creating images and birthing symbols, I understood what is it to have a son who understood what is it be a poet who has never made money out of his poetry. 
There was one thing that we all know in the family: that our simple home in the homeland is now devoid of books. 
We eventually had to part with all our books when we decided to leave the homeland, the books benefitting at least four libraries: two in Metro Manila and two in the provinces. 
You want to figure out what we read, check the Marikina Public Library, the Roosevelt College Library, the Apayao State College Library, and the Mariano Marcos Library. 
Each time we make a swing back home, we have to scour for books we read because there is no longer anything left on the shelf except the skeletons of a memory that somewhere on the shelves there was once a Neruda, or a Paz, or Dostoevsky. Or a de Chardin. Or a de Foucauld. 
And then I got my son's holiday card deep inside the beribboned box. 
I opened the card. 
In his familiar handwriting, he says: "I hope that one day, pop, I can build your library again. That will be my gift." 
Now, I know the definition of a grateful heart. 

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