Wednesday, August 13, 2008

“FREEZE! You have the right to remain children!”

“Mom, do you have a minute?” Trevor asks from behind me. My mind slowly retreats from its present dimension, filled with numbers and analysis.

“Just a minute.” I tell him without turning from the screen in front of me as I type the remainder of my thought on the yellow page staring back. “OK, what is it?” I ask, still clicking at the keys, but straddling between dimensions enough to hear his question. He knows that interruptions are supposed to be of an “urgent” nature when coming into my office while I’m working.

“Mom, I don’t want to ask for money to go the carnival two nights in a row,” he begins, allowing a pause for my potential reaction, “so instead, could I have a few friends over?”

The carnival is in town and I believe it is mandatory in the teenage code of ethics that all are present on the opening and closing nights. Trevor and his boys wouldn’t dream of breaking the code and attended opening night as expected. The problem is… the carnival runs five nights, necessitating a stream of cash that he knows better than to ask for.

“What’s a few?” I ask without turning, his tall lanky fourteen-year-old presence visible in my minds eye.

“Like… six?” He says, his voice softening, indicating he is backing up a step or two.

My desk chair whips like a carnival ride from the sheer jolt of negative energy in my torso. “No!” I look him square in the eye. “Enough is enough!” His new face looks at me with earnest, sincere pleading. His beautiful blond locks that hung low on his face, gone with a recent radical haircut and the eyebrows I haven’t seen in years make an arched plea.

“Just 3 boys… not to sleep over, and a couple of girls later… just for a little while?” He says with a cross between a smile and an apology spread across his face. Please?”

Trevor has been on a social marathon. He has always been purposeful and tenacious, finding the way to his goal no matter what the obstacle. This summer, he has been involved in a Round-Robin sleepover with his buddies that rolls between houses and I keep looking for reasons to say ‘no’ but I have not really found any. He has learned the art of timing and looks for the opportune moment to pitch his social requests.

Trevor thrives on social interaction, which over the last couple of years has begun more and more to include the ladies. This comes as no surprise as he has been a ‘ladies man’ since he could walk. When Trevor was very young, he sought out older girls wherever we went and before long, had them swooning over him; the lifeguards, the soccer coaches, the groups of teens at the fair. When he was six, he professed his love to the teenage girl who coached his soccer clinic. Tyler was nine and readily told him how ridiculous he was, to which Trevor replied, “I can’t help it. It’s how God made me…I just-love-girls!”

The house is quiet with his brother and sister gone and I am intensely focused on a difficult assignment for work. Once again, I search for a reason to say no. My mind begins to spin a list of reasons, but my guard falls away and I agree…with conditions.

His boys show up and scurry to help him ready the space. I hear the vacuum cleaner and giggle inside at how he’ll do anything for the ladies. As usual, my summer clock has lost all awareness of time and I realize that we are hovering around the dinner hour and I offer to order pizza. Trevor, not wanting to push his luck says just a large cheese pizza would do or …maybe two. I order three and Trevor smiles, “Three? Well… OK.” he says, knowing he now has my full approval.

Three girls arrive and I am shocked at how they look more like women than girls now. I have known some of them since kindergarten and they make their way to the kitchen to chat with me. I had given Trevor a current and appropriate movie, which is running in the DVD player, grabbing no one’s attention.

I bake a large batch of brownies, the aroma pulling the group from the family room to the kitchen in a hypnotic state and they swarm like seagull as the dump. I realize now that there are six girls and Trevor has transformed a “few” friends into ten and I offer to deliver the brownies to the family room.

One of the girls bursts with a brilliant idea, “Oh…can we watch the talent show? 2003? Please?” The room fills with a combination of groans and cheers and before long; all ten are piled into chairs around the television. My heart melts at the sight of them. I ran that talent show for the last eight years and fought hard to keep the program in place. I was committed for so many reasons. It fostered team work and camaraderie. It gave kids a connection with one another and a chance to shine that some couldn’t find anywhere else. But mostly it knocked down barriers between groups and opened doors. It taught them courage, risk-taking and to how to trust in themselves. Watching them flash back five years with such delight confirmed that all of my efforts were worthwhile.

They laugh and share stories of “Remember when…” and “I can’t believe that is you.” They look and sound so grown up, but a childlike energy fills the room. They rewind and replay and revel in yesterday.

They will begin high school this fall and are hopping the fence to adulthood. They are in a place they will never be again, close enough to reach back and touch childhood, holding it arms length as they get ready to let go. They are balancing on one foot, ready to step over the fence and lingering for that one last look.

I take in the image of them; bittersweet and fleeting. I would like to freeze them right there and stretch fourteen out as long as possible.


Terry Whitaker said...

You are an awesome writer. This captures perfectly the summer before high school. I know, I am living it, too.

Suzy said...



Simply love that boy..always have and always will.

Great writing Nance!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Ditto, Terry!

Take an A for the 3 pizzas and an A+ for making brownies! You went big with it, you'll never regret your decision!

Now, I'm off to take a page from your book!