Best Friends

With Christmas Break at its half-way point, our guys were starting to pick on, and at, each other. Sarcasm laced dinner conversation. It was annoying. So, we challenged them to be nice for 24 hours. Every time we caught them being mean to one another, or sarcastic about the other, they paid me a dollar to help pay for a dinner out.

I was named, “the arbiter of niceness.”

In less than fifteen minutes, our ninth grader accumulated $7 in debt to the bucket. The eighth grader was lawyering up, as he tends to do, debating his $3. The fourth grader was grinning at $2.

And “best two dollars I ever spent,” said my husband as the dishes were cleared.

The funny thing is that our eighth grader is trying to decide whether to go to the high school he thinks he likes best, or the one his big brother goes to. It is a tough choice for him, because academics matter to him… a lot.

But they are each other’s best friends. We cannot imagine them apart. We cannot imagine one going through high school without the other. They will lift each other up, quietly in the background of any picture. The presence of one will inspire the other to engage.

When they were in elementary school, they walked the carpool line at the end of the day, each at their own speed. I remember feeling sad that the one didn’t race to catch up with the other even if both dragged along the sidewalk alone. And I remember that as soon as they were both in middle school, that changed. They were suddenly always side by side, sometimes with friends weaving in and out between them, sometimes not. I loved watching them talk as they approached the car, wondering what had them so animated until they spilled in, long legs and too-heavy backpacks, both talking at once.

They are not the same. They operate at completely different speeds, the one always begging the other to play football or basketball, and the other begging for peace. They perceive the world through their own lenses – different sports teams, politics, favorite classes, favorite foods, humor. And often watching them, we think that if we blended their opposites into one person, they would be absolutely unbeatable as they move through this world.

Together, despite the $10 of mean fees earned quickly at the dinner table, they are amazing. I hope it Is not long before they understand and celebrate how very rare – how important – their friendship is. Maybe in time to choose a high school.

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Ten Years in the Minivan

What’s the matter with the car I’m driving?
“Can’t you tell that it’s out of style?”
Should I get a set of white wall tires?
“Are you gonna cruise a miracle mile?

Nowadays you can’t be too sentimental
….’

…but the minivan was my signature. I didn’t need the school sticker on my bumper or my carpool number on the dashboard, because everyone knew the red minivan in carpool line was me.

Yesterday we traded it in, and my husband’s car became mine. It’s a much better, safer, cooler car. But I still feel a little sentimental, a need to record and preserve the memories made during the last ten years. Almost exactly. We bought it a few weeks before our third son was born. “We need a bigger car.” And he turns ten next month.

Remember….

….those early days when I had to pin him down like we were wrestling to get him in his car seat? Him screaming? Writhing? Me wondering if I was going to get arrested for child abuse?

….or the time the car smelled so bad even after we had it detailed, and it ended up that some breakfast sausage links I carried with me for toddler snacks had slid between the seats weeks before?

….the time I drove home from a ski weekend in below zero, snowy weather, and our middle son puked all over the back seat? I pulled over at that abandoned-for-the-winter sleepaway camp and changed him out of his gross wet clothes, both of us crying, sure he was going to get pneumonia.

….or a few years later, when he puked all over his friend on the way up to the mountains?

What about the time our youngest decorated his “happy place” by using a sharpie to draw a pirate scene in the third row seat? And then got mad at me because I scrubbed it off?

….or when his brother’s friends laughed so hard at the story that he did it again?!

….or when one of the few girls to ever get in my car climbed in, and after a quick look stated, “Wow! Your car is dirtier than ours.”

Remember the minivan caravan to Mount Rushmore? The camping trips? The embarrassment of swiping another mom’s car mirror in carpool line? The fights over who had to sit in the seat with goo stuck to it?

The day our oldest first rode in the front seat? Or our dog refusing to give it up?

Her nose smudges and dirty paw scratches on the windows, because, barking in my ear, blocking my view of the road, she tried to get at every truck that passed us by?

What about waiting for dad to pick us up at the airport one night? The boys spotted it in the dark distance because, “Mom, it’s the only minivan in the world that goes 90 miles an hour.”

The racing red minivan. A little sticky in places. A lot of dirt. Stories that make us laugh now. It was “still rock in roll to me.”

When He Runs and They Saunter…

My second grader climbs out of the car each morning and runs down the carpool line. Sometimes shoelaces untied. Sometimes his backpack still open, snack on the verge of spilling onto the sidewalk. Eager to crash into a friend before class starts.

At the end of the day, as I wait in carpool line again, I watch him race across the field – “it’s my shortcut” as if it were his own secret route – and back down the sidewalk to the open door of the minivan. Sometimes shoes untied. Sometimes yelling at other second graders as he passes. “Bye!” He is as eager to come home as he was to arrive at school.

When they were in lower school, our older two boys used to walk the carpool line morning and afternoon slowly, separately. They would get out of the car and after a quick hug, head into school, rarely waiting for their brother to finish his hug and catch up. It was as if they didn’t know each other.

But now, as the little one sprints across his shortcut, taunting his buddies, his brothers walk together. Slowly. They talk all the way down the line, sharing bits of their day, complaints about homework, feats achieved in gym. Since they look nothing alike, one might mistake them for best friends.

And every 8am and 3pm, that scene makes me happy.

Two Days in the Life a Fleece

Day One

7:57 a.m.

“It’s going to be cold this morning. Is your fleece in your backpack?” I asked yesterday.

My son pulls everything out of his backpack: his lunchbox, his homework folder, two stuffed Puffles, a water bottle and an apple. No fleece.

“Then find it.”

The clock ticks. The whistle is about to blow in the playground calling all students into class. Luckily, we live only a few blocks from school.

7:59 a.m.

“Found it!” he yells from inside the closet.

He loads everything back into his backpack with the fleece, of course, all the way at the bottom. Very useful.

8:04 a.m.

We arrive at school just as the kids file inside, and after a brief lecture from me about getting organized for school the night before so that I do not have to yell.

3:30 p.m.

I open my son’s lunchbox to discover he ate none of his lunch.

“Honey, you didn’t eat anything!”

“I was too cold.”

“Did you have lunch outside?”

“Yes, and it was cold.”

“Where was your fleece?”

“I don’t know.”

Day Two

7:54 a.m.

I start a few minutes earlier this morning with “Check your backpacks to make sure you have what you need today! And remember, it’s chilly, and you have outdoor assembly this morning!”

A moment later, backpack contents again emptied onto the floor, “I can’t find my fleece!”

“Did you check in the closet?”

He goes to the closet. “It’s not in here!”

“Did you leave it in the car?”

He goes outside to the car to check, “Wow, it’s cold.”

“That’s why you need your fleece,” I grit my teeth.

“Not in the car!”

I open the closet he just looked in and find his fleece on the floor.

8:04 a.m.

We arrive at school just as the kids file inside, and after a brief lecture from me about getting organized for school the night before so that I do not have to yell.

My oldest son glares at me.

“What’s wrong?” I ask him.

“You’re being mean to us.”

8:07 a.m.

I pull into our driveway and open the backdoor to the minivan to let my four year old out.

My son’s fleece is on his car seat.

Getting a Four Year Old in the Car Without Yelling

Yesterday, when it was time to pick up his older brothers at school, my four year old refused to get in the car. He ran around the house screaming that he hated carpool line, then raced upstairs.

For once, I kept my cool.

I lowered my voice and spoke into an imagined walkie-talkie, “Calling Luke Skywalker. The Millenium Falcon is heading to Planet Something-or-other to pick up the Jedi. Get Chewbacca. We must leave before Darth Vadar gets to them.”

The screaming stopped immediately.

Then, the pitter-patter of little feet on the stairs, in the hall, through the kitchen, to the garage.

“Mom,” big grin, “I’m not an ewok anymore. I’m Luke!”

And the Millenium Falcon was off!