Keep running, boys–they’re right behind you

Categorized as Grounds for Insanity column, Rhonda's Posts

It was the annual open house at the school up the road. For days, the 7-year-old whose blue jeans I launder had been buzzing. For days, the book fair had been set up with row upon row of new books. He’d picked out the one he wanted, and for days, he’d vibrated, squiggling in excitement, mentioning it to Mama.

After “years and years,” as one might calculate in SKT (Standard Kid Time), it came, and off we went, Mama, Daddy, Big Brother and Eager Reader. Over, under, around and through we followed a little bullet, trailing his back pockets through packed halls, a crowded classroom and, at last, the library where those books were being sold.

Happy at last, he clutched his sack of books. All at once, horror swept over his face. Pointing a finger, he said, “That girl. She chases me!” I followed the end of his pointing digit. There she stood, The Chaser and her own mama who, I noted, were sporting grins that stretched like melon slices over cheeks.

He said it again, equal parts horror and disdain coloring his voice. “She chases me. The madder I get, the faster I run, and then she gives up.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud. Oh, the perils of being 7 and cute. “You keep running, buddy,” I thought, but did not say. “For the foreseeable future, until you’re oh, say, 25? You keep running.”

It was during the daily post-school debriefing recently that another little jewel was delivered. There he came, my taciturn, blue-eyed boy. No fount of information, he, so Mother was left to extract what tidbits she could. Gently and tactfully, of course, but extraction nonetheless.

It always began the same. “How was school?” This, from me in a bright and cheerful kind of way.

“Good.” One syllable, one word, and this in monotone.

“What was good about it?” Once more with the bright and cheerful theme.

“It was normal.” Again, this dearth of information in a monotone that would make a POW weep with envy.

Giving up, I’d move on to the next question. “Any girl encounters?” There was a reason I asked this question. Somehow, the pigtailed piranhas had come after this one in middle school, and I liked to keep my finger on the pulse. According to his father, it was this very air of inscrutability and mystery that drove them up the wall.

In seventh grade, for instance, he’d come home with a letter from a girl. “My lips are dry, and my hands are chapped,” she’d proclaimed. “I need you to buy me some Chapstick and hand lotion.” In the brave, new world of adolescence, this appeared to be the proof of love.

He wrote back. “I guess your lips will keep burning and your hands will stay dry. I don’t have any money.”

A reply landed on his desk a short time later. “I hate you,” it said. “I love someone else now. He bought me Chapstick.” Below this, she’d drawn a mountain. On one side, she’d penciled in her and her new love in stick figures with a heart in between. And on the other side, she’d doodled another stick figure, my son, standing alone and cold by the mountain.

The missive that returned to her, passed through a row of pimpled intermediaries, contained another piece of artwork. It, too, featured a mountain with two stick figures on the right and one standing alone on the left. In this one, however, one could see an avalanche bearing down on the two with the heart as the figure on the left stood, laughing.

You can see, can’t you, how this approach would frustrate teenage girls and drive them utterly mad? As his mother, though, I was thrilled at his resistance and his refusal to be manipulated. And I howled again when he came home with a story from math class.

“Any girl encounters?” I’d said to Mr. Monotone.

“Well, there was a girl in my math class,” he said. “She asked for my phone number.”

I raised my eyebrows. “What did you say?”

“I said, ‘I’m happy with the part of my number you do have.’ And she said, ‘But I don’t have your number!’ And I said, ‘Exactly.’”

We still roar over this one. His friends, hearing it, howled, too. The only not-howler was the poor, unfortunate soul who went fishing for a phone number and came up with exactly nothing.

But back to what happened the other day. Same kid, same monotone, only this time, I threw in a name, “What about her?” His lips twitched into an almost-grin. “It’s a ‘plutonic’ relationship.” Again, I laughed. If it was platonic, thumbs up. But if it was ‘plutonic,’ or plutonium based, we’d have another deal that could require oven mitts to handle.

For now, this mother’s mantra is, “Keep running, boys.” Childhood passes so quickly. There will be plenty of time for romance later. Hang out with your buddies, be friends with everyone and enjoy your time as a kid.

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