Christmas night, between the long hours of after-dinner and putting Alphonse to bed, I chanced upon Alex, my eldest boy, playing quietly in one small corner of his room. On most nights of his short vacation, Alex was plugged online, oblivious to all of us. His ears were swaddled in gigantic headphones designed to block out noise and catch every nuance of his music, online messengers, and video games. On other nights, he was immersed in other worlds, his Kindle Fire his preferred companion. But for some reason, on Christmas night, he had none of his gadgets with him. Even the headphones and the iPod were gone.
Instead, he was playing with action figures from his favorite anime. We had given him money this year, aside from the usual (shirts and ehrmm… socks). Money was a no-brainer as he was saving up to buy a new charger for his laptop but we had also pulled together an unexpected “sort-of-Christmas-present” for him- a box of figures from the Japanese manga “Fate Stay Night” he liked so much. And even as we didn’t bother with wrapping the figures that came in an old shoe box, we could also tell that he was quite happy to open even just one boxed present from us.
I haven’t seen Alex play with toys in a long time and that night, my heart was seized with melancholy and nostalgia. How many moments have I missed in this young man’s life, my eyes and ears always focused on his brother’s needs? How many times did I put off the moments meant solely for him because his brother always needed me more? Alex just grew so fast that now, looking back, I don’t seem to have enough of his childhood memories to stow and keep. So many moments I missed and so many regrets.
I ambled slowly over to him. I ruffled his hair and kissed him gently on the cheek. He looked at me, surprised.
And then he sneezed.
“I’m allergic to love, Mama,” he whispered.
We both broke out laughing.
Even now, as Alex nears his 20th year, I remember the little boy who loved Pokemon, Power Rangers, and dogs named Beethoven. My first-born- the one who opened my heart to a different kind of love- will always be the funny, little boy who filled my days with wonder and delight. I just hope I have not made him truly allergic to love.