Molly and I arrived at school Friday afternoon to pick up the boys, like we always do. On that day, however, for the very first time, we would be bringing home a 10-year old. It was Evan's birthday.
We met Max first and together we walked to the front lobby to wait for our big boy. The bell rang and a stream of fourth- and fifth-graders flooded the hallways. After just a minute or so, I saw him as he rounded the corner. He looked different...bigger. A smile spread across his face as he caught my eye. It's not that he was just so happy to see me, his mama. No, it was something else. A sparkle in his eye, his chest puffed up a bit. It was joy, but it was also pride. I swear my little guy looked ten-feet tall walking towards us.
Before I could tousle his hair, sneak a top-of-the-head kiss, and say "happy birthday," he began:
"Picture this," he said, as we three listeners stood rapt, ignoring the swell of the crowd around us.
"This afternoon. Bonus recess. Kickball game. We're down by three, 13-10, and we're kicking. It's the last up of the game, 'cause Ms. G had just given us the warning to finish up. So I get up to kick. As soon as they see that it's me coming up to kick, all the kids on the other team in the outfield come in real close. Probably because they know I usually don't kick it really far...."
[I have to stop myself from reacting to this. This is Truth, provided without emotion or self-consciousness. It is merely a logical description of Fact, from my very logical kid.]
He continues without missing a beat:
"So the ball's coming toward me and as soon as I kick it, I know it's awesome. It goes sailing. Over. Their. Heads. and WAY out into the outfield. I start running. Man on third gets home. Man on second gets home. Mason's rounding to third and they try to peg him out but the ball misses him by, like, thismuch. Mason gets home. I'm still running. I GET HOME. It was an INSIDE THE PARK GRAND SLAM HOME RUN. And I helped my team win the game!"
You know I started to cry. Right there in the freaking lobby of my kids' school, I teared up over a freaking kickball game. As Max high-fived him and exclaimed, "OHMYGOSH, Evan!! Good job, bro!" I hugged my game-winning 10-year old tight and he didn't protest.
We talked about it the whole way home. We talked about it again when Sam got home from work. I could hear that kid of mine tell that story 100 times and it would make me tear up every time. Evan, the MVP.
When Evan's Destination Imagination team won 1st Place in the State tournament a few weeks ago, I realized that, for a kid like Evan, who has never played team sports, the biggest thing he's missed out on is the feeling of a Team Win (and yes, a Team Loss). He's had plenty of time and space to develop a lot of the other skills that are so fundamental to playing organized sports, but never that feeling of Collective Victory. DI was great for Evan for a number of reasons, but those 1st place medals that he earned together with his teammates were among the top of the top.
Friday's kickball win made me feel so similar to his DI team win....He was proud of his accomplishments, yes, but he knew that it wasn't he alone who won the game. The beauty of teamwork is that, win or lose, you're in it together. But, damn. I'm so happy my kid got to experience what it feels like to Win.
The icing on the proverbial cake is that, when kids started arriving for Evan's party later that evening, two of the moms said to me, "I heard all about Evan's big kickball game today!" The boys went home and TOLD THEIR MOMS about something awesome my kid did WITH A BALL. ON A FIELD.
A birthday miracle, indeed.