I’ve been thinking a lot about our son turning nine, the last of the single digits. The conversation from the back seat between those on the cusp of nine secured any notion that he is growing up too quickly; he is growing just right– not too fast and not too slow. When my niece turned nine, her decision making abilities, level headed common sense, and compassion made me feel like she could spread wings and fly the nest any day. This is not the case for our almost nine year old boy, who made sure there were enough stuffed animals to go around for his two buddies who slept over.
Since he was two, we always celebrated his birthday at the sledding hill in our neighborhood friends and kids of varying ages. The big kids helped the little ones, and the adults chatted, had pizza and brushed snow out of faces or shook mittens when necessary. Our boy still struggles to make sure his snow pants are on the outside of his boots, but I refuse to fix it for him anymore. The natural consequence: snow in your boot makes your feet cold which equates to less time in the snow. Yet, he has learned to not complain if his feet are cold, accepting the consequence but still not figuring out how to prevent from happening again. But this year, on the cusp of nine, he wanted to go and jump.
He’s got these friends who are amazing nine year olds or also on the cusp of being nine. His friend Hazel has been keeping him on track literally since infancy as she was born on Christmas Eve, and they attended the same lovely childcare center. In almost every photo taken of them elbow deep in play dough or costumes or later at class Halloween parties or birthday gatherings, she is always seated directly to his left. I’ve even discussed with his teachers, “Hey, listen, please do not feel obligated to always put Hazel next to him. I know she keeps him on task, but I don’t want her to resent him one day.”
I picture her telling her mother or father, “Oh my God, Carver is driving me nuts! Do you know he still doesn’t adjust his snow pants right so the elastic actually keeps snow from going down his boots,” and she will be 14 and put one hand on her hip and sigh in exasperation. And if Carver is within earshot and hears the words, “NUTS,” he will lose his mind in giggles even into adulthood most likely.
The boys pointed out “Dick’s Sporting Goods” at the entrance to Concord Mall and could not help themselves. “What an awful name for a store. Can you imagine being named after a penis?” my son asked. I begin to explain that Dick is a common nickname for Richard, and just as I looked in the rearview mirror to scold him, his friend Taylor, a sensible, smart, hilarious little boy (and fastest kid on my soccer team), puts his hand on Carver’s arm to shush him, shaking his head, “Carver, no, bro, don’t say it, your mom will get mad,” he whispers. Taylor has been Carver’s friend since preschool and when he was practicing his English (he is Chinese) Carver felt it was very important for Taylor to know all the birds of prey at age four, now on the cusp of nine.
And I wonder just how much platonic policing (that should be a real term– just saying) goes on during the school day among his friendship crew. His friend Boone is also a sweet, athletic, nature loving AND a staunch rule follower, one of my own kind. I can relate to the way he wants to laugh in the moment, but knows it’s probably a bad idea whenever the talk of penises comes up outside the bathroom. Boone has three brothers, and he puts up with Carver’s shenanigans as a practiced expert.
Then there are a few empty garbage barrels which have blown out of the back of someone’s truck on the high way and they are like, “We should pull over and pick them up. These people are littering all over the highway,” and I love them as “Let’s Protect the Earth” and “Damn those litterers” evangelists. They are all doing really well in school, so I wonder when their spacial intelligence will kick in to realize two giant garbage cans will not fit in a Subaru filled with children and ski equipment in the back.
They take turns multiplying “really big numbers” in their heads. They brag about things like division and skiing and Pokemon. They wonder if everything at JC Penney’s is sold for a penny, and I don’t interrupt. On the cusp of nine.
Along the way, we pick up one more friend en route to NH from MA and his parents need to get north sooner than later. So, Karlos slides in the back and makes his introductions at which point they spend 10 minutes discussing their middle names, which I also find to be hilarious. Karlos’ winter home used to be behind ours so our boys have played together since puppies. At one point, Carver asks Taylor about his Chinese middle name. Karlos says, “Well, why would you have a Chinese middle name?”
Carver replies for Taylor, “Dude, man, bro– Taylor is actually Chinese.” Taylor shakes his head smiling, and the car erupts into laughter.
“Dude, sorry, I didn’t notice,” and I’m waiting for Karlos to point out to Taylor that he is brown or black in case Taylor didn’t notice, but that doesn’t happen. I giggle to myself and am reminded of the image from a few weeks earlier at Karlos and Carver’s first ski race of the season when they finished their first run and had to go to the bathroom sooooooo bad. When they got in the bathroom, they couldn’t figure out how to take their GS suits off alone, so they each had to peel the other out.
I know it’s not the first or the last time these guys will help one another out of a jam. But for my son’s sake, I’m really grateful his friends right now are pretty solid, lovely little creatures, on the cusp of being nine. Hazel’s already nine, and I know she is working damn hard to show them the way. Best birthday ever and we hadn’t even left the car. Happy 9th birthday tomorrow Carver Gregory Krill!