There is nothing more exasperating and endearing than the thirteen-year-old boy, although to be honest, I think this human version of the pupa stage might have been an oversight on God’s part. The butterfly, a perfectly magical creature, is equipped to go through its awkward and delicate change from its childish caterpillar self, under cover and protected. Caterpillars shed their final layer of skin to reveal a pupa. The outer skin of the pupa hardens to form a chrysalis, which shields the amazing transformation that is taking place inside. The same is not true of the thirteen-year-old male human. He sheds his final little boy layer slowly, exposed and vulnerable.
This human pupa resorts to creating an invisible shell, a fierce and arrogant demeanor intended to ward off attention to its delicate transformation. He is often guarded, pushing away affection and kind words, ready to battle on any front. Like the caterpillar, he eats tremendous quantities of food in order to fuel his massive growth, shedding layers of his younger self in the process.
As I pull my car in to the middle school driveway on Friday afternoon to pick up my pupa, he is surrounded by a pack of similar creatures; all trying to act nonchalant as he “Oh-so-subtlety” asks to bring them home. He is five foot eight with size thirteen shoes, baby-faced with braces and teenage complexion. I watch, as they attempt to appear unaware of the request being made.
“Hmmm,” I pause, silently counting heads. Trevor looks all ‘sad puppy’ at me and raises his eyebrows. “Boys, do your moms know that you’re coming to my house?” I ask.
They all validate that this has been run by all five other mothers and affirmed as they duck, one by one, under the slider door and into the van. The van rocks back and forth as they push and shove each other, laughing with pupa jokes. I shoot Trevor a sideways glance over the top of my eyes, letting him know that his attempt at subtly gaining clearance from me was a transparent plan since they had already cleared it with their mothers.
“Thanks Mom!” He barrels in next to me.
“Put your seatbelt on.” I tell him, trying to look stern, but he knows me too well.
“Oh, beep at those girls!” They beg as we pass a pack of female pupa. I toot the horn and all six boys wave wildly, chortling amongst themselves. Pulling into the driveway, they tumble out as gracefully as they barreled in; twelve giant skateboard shoes are kicked into a pile inside the front door, six back packs beside. They swarm to the kitchen, looking for fuel and I let them know that I will bake chocolate chip cookie bars in a few minutes. “Awww, your mom is awesome.” One says as they retreat, “My mom would never bake us something.”
They move from the house to the yard in a noisy cluster, pushing and shoving with playful affection. “Mom, I think some of us stepped in dog poop.” Trevor announces, handing over several giant skateboard shoes. “I tell him to leave them outside and shoo the pack into the family room, later investigating to find only muddy sneakers.
The chocolate chip cookie bars vanish before they can cool and slowly, one by one, the pupas yell “Good-bye Mrs. R, Thanks for having me!” as their families arrive to retrieve them. Finally, only two remain and they are calmer now playing video games.
“Are you guys going to spend the night?” I ask, before Trevor has a chance to ask.
“Sure, if that’s OK.” They answer.
“Is it OK with your moms?” I inquire.
“Yeah, they said it was fine.” They answer, falling into the trap again. I look over my eyes once again at Trevor to let him know he has been caught.
“Thanks Mom!” He says in his baby man voice, looking much more like a caterpillar than a butterfly.
*photo by bsi.montant.edu