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Boy of Summer

August 8, 2010

Now that I’m getting the hang of the new camera and that AJ’s taught me some of what he learned at video camp, I’ve been going back and looking at older digital videos with an eye toward editing together a DVD of AJ’s younger years. The first of the digital clips are from the summer before AJ started kindergarten. There’s AJ splashing in the lake outside the University of Wisconsin’s student center. There he is sitting on an antique tractor at the Woodstock folk festival. There he is running around the front yard with Ben Franklin Boy, playing basketball in our family room with The Boy Across the Street, doing sliding practice in his overlarge baseball pants with his dad in the back yard. There’s his first season ever of playing basketball on a team.

The thing that is really striking about all of these is AJ’s pure, unbridled excitement. He is grinning ear-to-ear in every single one. He’s so excited by the game of hot potato at his kindergarten Halloween party, that he’s jumping up and down in his chair.

The really challenging thing about 8 and 9 so far has been the setting in of some pretty stifling self-consciousness. AJ doesn’t demonstrate how much he’s having fun so easily any more. He worries about being embarrassed or looking different. Yesterday, for instance, he wore his football cleats to the ball park (his feet have grown two sizes in the last few weeks so the baseball cleats he was wearing just a month ago no longer fit). But when we got there, most of the other kids were wearing regular gym shoes. So he asked his dad if he could put on his other shoes. His dad said his cleats were okay, thinking he was worried about wearing something that wasn’t allowed. But as his dad went to ask an authority, AJ stormed off with his gear bag and changed his shoes, grumbling that no one ever listens to him. I love my nine-year-old, but I miss that five-year-old happy face. I hate to see the weight of the world closing in on him so quickly.

Yesterday, we picked AJ up from his sleepover and drove him down to my mother-in-law’s for a brief visit with her and her visiting twin, whom we haven’t seen since AJ was about 2. She gave AJ one of those enormous aunt hugs, the kind I remember from childhood where you thought it would probably end sometime soon, but you weren’t entirely sure you’d escape before you’d suffocate. But AJ took it in stride.

After a little while, we piled into a car with Uncle 2, who was treating AJ to this event and Mr. Spy’s sister. As good Chicagoans, we discussed the traffic on the Kennedy the whole way down, how it was too heavy, how the reversible express lanes were never facing the right direction, etc. AJ fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we pulled into the parking lot at the ball park.

He was not happy when he woke up. “I’m too tired to do this,” he complained. “I want to go home.” He moped while we took pictures in front of the monument to the 2005 World Series. He moped while we stood around waiting to go in. But the second the kids were called in, he looked like he was having fun. Apparently having to hang with so many grown-ups was what was cramping his style.

These camps are really designed to make the 9-year-old baseball nut’s dreams come true.

Their names were put up on the scoreboard. They got to take batting practice on home plate.

White Sox old-timer and baseball great Frank Thomas showed them around the clubhouse and the visitor’s locker room. They got to practice pitching in the bullpen and catch flyballs against the outfield wall where DeWayne Wise made a physics-defying game last season when Mark Buerhle pitched his perfect game. AJ was there that day. Now there’s a monument to it on the wall – it says simply “The Catch”

After it was over, we all repaired to the field-side bar for a “spread,” which is, apparently, baseball for dinner. We got to eat by the giant window overlooking the field, where we could watch the groundskeepers grooming the infield. When AJ had finished his hot dog, his uncle took him on a walk around the bar to show him all the things on the walls – old time pictures, seats from the original Comiskey, signed photos. I watched them walk around and I couldn’t help but notice AJ’s face. He was grinning.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    August 9, 2010 7:50 am

    Sigh, yeah. Dusty will more often than not hide her face in her hands now when I’m trying to take a picture of her. She noticed, when she got back from camp, that my laptop’s desktop picture was one of her at the beach. She grumbled and asked me to put one of Red up. I told her I’d switched it because I missed her while she was gone. She grudgingly admitted that, under the circumstances, that was okay but still insisted I change it. I have a feeling 10 isn’t going to be any better in that regard.

    I think we’re going to have to sharpen our stealth moves so we can capture those moments of joy when they don’t suspect we’re looking.

  2. August 9, 2010 11:42 am

    Oh… we aren’t there (yet?) My 9yo Pook is as easygoing as ever. Bug, at 6, is the one worried about appearances. First day of school today with just the right backpack, just the right shoes, just the right…. We got there, but it was stressful. And now he’ll compare to all the kids and come home and no longer like these things he’s stuck with.

  3. crankygirl permalink
    August 10, 2010 11:23 am

    I’ve been surprised having J that an infant can express so much joy. It’s nice to know that it can last quite a long time.

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