Last Friday night, a brood of nine-year-old boys skidded around the corners of my living room in their socks, jumping to greet each new friend as he appeared at our doorway. They wore hoodies and sweatpants and addressed each other by “dude”. There were four altogether, but it felt like forty.
They immediately picked up hockey sticks and without clearing away any of the scattered blocks, dolls, and toy vehicles from the basement floor, proceeded to have a game (that would last ten minutes before devolving into a version of girls against boys warfare because Sophie and Ellie had made their way to the basement. Oh sisters.)
They’d stampede upstairs upon arrival of pizza and their feet would curl around the bottom of their kitchen chairs, their legs just now long enough to touch the ground. They would talk about nothing and everything in frenetic bursts, and in another ten minutes they were up in Cohen’s room (“wow! That’s messy!”) eating chocolate chip cookies under a desk covered by a blanket that had become a “cookie fort.”
Nine trips around the sun make for this odd amalgam of big and little, of quirkiness and curiosity, of innocence and experience. The boys volleyed back and forth between these worlds, and the evening became this ebb and flow, this rhythm of little to big and back again. At one point in the night, an argument sat at the tip of their tongues- who would have to be the “seeker” in a game of hide and seek? (whole house version, of course. Basement included!) “Dude- no, I’m not it!”-playful shoves in the chest, “Dude- no, not me!” And then– innocence again- gangly legs and bony elbows shoved in a tight circle to perform a round of “Bubblegum, bubblegum” in order to “fairly” nominate the victim.
Later, I would hear enthusiastic commands toward Alexa to play the latest Imagine Dragons song only to be followed by a round of “Pink fluffy unicorns”. They wanted nothing to do with the girls. At one point in the night Ellie repeated at least seven times “guys, I’m in karate!” with virtually no response from the boys whatsoever, but later in the evening, during a raucous nerf gun battle, they commended her for suggesting that the troops “head into mama’s room!”– (Good god- don’t look at the laundry!) “Nice job Sergeant….” the young lieutenant reached into the recesses of his mind for the name of the girl who had been trying to get some verbal reaction from him the entire night…. “Ellie!” she reminded him proudly, “Sergeant Ellie!”
This ebb and flow continued until the end of the evening when dads trudged through the snow-covered walks for pick up. Cohen lay on the couch, exhausted and sugar-stuffed, this fusion of big and little now tired and quiet. (Youth in his drooping, smooth cheeks and age in the increasing definition of his eyes.)
Yesterday he was different, and tomorrow he will be, too. But for a little bit that night, it was the now I noticed.