The boy is propelled toward adolescence like the bottle rocket he has just launched into the trees. With a whoosh, whistle, pop, and a burst of light, the pre-pubescent boy is in constant motion, loud, and bursting with self-discovery. And, like the bottle rockets blasting every which way or zipping dud right into the ground, the boy is aimed in the most general of directions.
It wasn’t so long ago that he drove the little battery-powered tractor across our yard and through the next to visit his great-grandparents. With faces peeled to the kitchen window, we watched attentively through the trees for his arrival at Nana’s door. Today, in a new step toward manhood, he drives the zero-turn mower to the same door. And back. In circles and zigzags and, rarely, a straight line. It’s not that he can’t drive in a straight line. He won’t. Who wants to drive a straight line in a zero-turn? His controlled zig-zagging holds some promise that he could actually mow the lawn. And his reverse slide into the mower’s parking spot is reminiscent of his aunt’s impressive eighteen second parallel parking of the minivan for her driver’s test. But what he really wants to do is drive round and round in tight little circles. I suppose one could get the grass cut that way, leaving our Google Earth image looking like so many teeny-weeny crop circles.
His visit to the great-grands has netted him a marble chess set worthy of the budding chessmaster. Zig-zag crop circle boy is impressively analytical. Next week is chess camp and, after that, PopPop, who first taught him the game, will never beat him ever again. This week PopPop lost to the boy, checkmated fair and square. “I can’t even blame scotch,” he sighed.
The boy is in his element now that his grandfather is home from work. Helping his grandmother harvest peas and beans was ok for about twenty minutes, but not nearly as adventurous as finding a turtle. Unfortunately, finding a turtle requires a full day of outdoor wandering (preferably with another pre-pubescent boy) and a good dose of luck. What he got from teacher/grandmother was a gentle suggestion to find something to read. That suggestion went over like a wet firecracker. The middle school has recommended a soul-crushing twenty-five books to read over summer vacation. He is doomed to fail, so why even bother when he could make ingenious Lego creations from watching YouTube videos.
But PopPop is home and that means the boy can light a bonfire and ride the zero-turn and shoot bottle rockets while his grandparents sip adult beverages.
Meanwhile, inside the house, cell phones ping with un-answered texts from Mother of Boy.
“Hellooooooo where is my child?”
He’s outside by a fire playing with explosives with his grandfather. The boy moving toward manhood and the man regressing into boyhood. Controlled danger. It’s all good.
Cue female eye-roll.