North Luzon Monitor

North Luzon

POV: Hannah

George Babsa-ay Jr.
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 In a recent voice chat – somewhat reminiscent of the TV show “Kids Say the Darndest Things” – Hannah, my twelve-year-old niece, delightfully schooled me on writing and on a gut-core matter I’ve been wrestling with, most of my pseudo-adult life.

You see, I was this crass caveman, long unmoved and cushioned from thoughtful talk.

So you must imagine my dread when this bright-eyed American Ibaloy girl – all twang, all 48 bubbly seasons of her, wonderfully wired in the great State of North Carolina, (Home State of His Airness and the First Flight Ever over hills near Kitty Hawk) – was sprang up on me by her Mum, as if I needed babysitting.

It was our first real chat. I mean, one that went beyond the usual ‘Hello…You take care’ kind of talk. An Uncle-Niece moment, it was.

But then, what does this crass caveman do? I try to sound cool. Perhaps in an attempt to overcompensate-sort-of-thing, I recall thinking, How can I get past the uncool stuff: ‘How’s school?… How’s life after school?’ and get to that point where I would sound like that really cool uncle.

Ah, ‘Hannah,’ that name. Surely, ‘Hannah’ figures somewhere in the Bible? But, surprise, surprise! I come up empty, and nanoseconds, during these occasions, stretch into light years. And the more I groped, the more I groped. I saw myself cringing at my cringing. And, from a cave, was sooner forced to blabber the default: ‘Uhm, Hannah…how’s school?

Hannah tries her best to reply, while I dabble with smart repartee. But then the words just poke me right back in the eye. So, imagine the awkwardness echoing somewhere there.

Call it genetic bias. But more than Hannah’s nearness to fame and that rainbow-bud mind of hers, Hannah is a kind and decent person. For, as I fumbled — Hannah, being Hannah, THE lovely daughter of Gideon and Anggie, and I’m guessing creatively coached by her Mum — brought me from this cave a chat closer back to them. To some measure of hope.

Hannah told me, without saying it: “I do get it, uncle. You’re an idiot. So, what. You can be better.”

Because I was/am. Because I was this false, condescending agin-co-conyo, cherry-picking words that twelve-year olds could understand when they do understand things we think they don’t. In fact, I see now, Hannah knows more than she told me.

Kids have this BS radar. Some lot can be kind about it. And Hannah chose to gift me with this – the path not hurtful, but no less life-changing.

So I was jolted to be me. And when I was, everything fell into place. I was firing questions she patiently answered. I was/am a kid, still, of course. But, now, somehow mindful and less bratty (Wiiiiiinnnnkkksss!).

“Why do you write stories?” Hannah would ask, at some point.

“To be famous,” I said. Not correct. But honest. And that was what mattered, we both knew.

Then we talked more about stories, her favorite stories, one about the clans of warrior cats. Hannah wrote stories herself, you see. And she told me the ‘Protagonist’ (yup, direct quote) must be someone the reader could see and like. Mine always seemed someone only I could see and like.

I might have blurted, “So, that’s why my stories suck.”

Was that a giggle?

 I sure wish it was.

“Uncle… It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make progress,” Hannah said, the darndest, most sensible thing.

And that’s exactly why Michael Jordan and The Wright Brothers stories are there. And why some crass one can, too, come out better some time. And we all have family to thank for that.

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