Boys on Ice
It all started out so innocuously. The time: after school. The scene: the minivan.
Saint James: Do we have anything going on tonight?
Me: Nope. We’re probably going to Punch Pizza later, but that’s it.
Saint James: Can I go down to the park to skate?
Saint James: I can go by myself.
Saint James: I can tie my own skates.
Me: Uhhhhhhhh. Uhhhhhhhh. OK. I guess. OK. You can tie your own skates?
And so, for the first time ever, I let my boy walk down to the park on his own. It’s not far. A couple blocks. But it’s out of eyeshot and as he smiled, proud as can be, and trudged off with his skates hooked on his hockey stick like a winter sports lovin’ hobo – I held my breath. And I went into full-on cartoon fantasy crazy head. I imagined slamming the door and running up the stairs to the second floor, then running up the stairs to the third floor, then opening a secret door and running up more and more and more stairs until I was in a super high teetering crows nest on top of our roof, from which I could see the park and my son’s little dark green jacket in the distance. I pictured scurrying back downstairs, opening the front door and pulling a telescope out of my pocket. With a shwooop sound it would extend down to the street, take a right and extend all the way to the park, my eyeball bulging out of the end of it, looking left and right, blinking. Ah, the modern conveniences of Looney Toons. How I wish.
The truth is, every fiber of my being (except for maybe one or two) knows that it’s absolutely OK for him to go the park to skate on his own. And not only is it OK, I think it’s good. For a couple seasons now, I’ve been loving the wilderness that is park pick-up hockey and all the lessons it has to teach.
Saint James is kind of shy, so the fact that he manages to nudge his way into games is surprising and makes me curious. Does he ask? Does he just sneak in and start playing? It’s all very mysterious to me.
He and Supergirl go down with Doctor Dash quite often, and sometimes Saint James comes back flushed and happy. Sometimes he comes back pouty and pissed off that the bigger kids weren’t passing to him. In a life of coached, closely supervised, highly taught, pre-packaged sports, he’s not used to being ignored. There’s always a coach with a whistle, making sure everyone gets a chance. Saint James doesn’t know his place in the pecking order. I don’t think he even knows that there is a pecking order. The way I see it, he should be happy to be on the ice with a bunch of older kids that don’t know him and his geeky snow pants from Adam. He just has to keep showing up and eventually he’ll break into this band of unruly ice rats who are too cool to wear jackets or helmets. Some of them don’t even wear gloves! Gasp! Where are their mothers?!
There’s the possibility that he’ll get roughed up, that some little punk a couple years older will say something mean and the thought of that just about slays me. There’s also the possibility that he’ll skate his face off, forgetting about school, piano and his mother. That the feral boy who’s in all our boys will get to come out and play. That his heart will pound and his lungs will ache and he will know no greater happiness than the present moment. I get that. I want that for him. So I let him go.