He chattered about basketball. The Wildcats played the night before, and we parsed their performance and their footwear. His mom signed him up for a team at the JCC; she'd pick him up at his dad's on Sunday afternoon for the next round of tryouts. "I think he just wants Mom to drive me," is all he knows about his father's puerile temper tantrum about Mom signing the kid up for an activity on Dad's custody week.
At a certain point, it can be hoped that the father will realize that it's not his week, it's Mr. 9's life. That point is still somewhere in the fantastical future. For now, Amster will drive 35 minutes to pick him up and 35 minutes to bring him home because she understands the value of consistent attendance. Mr. 9 has been shielded, at least on the maternal side, from any of the controversy. All he knows is that he's playing ball. It makes him very happy.
He held the door for me, like a well-mannered child should, and then we examined the Booksellers' Choices and the Just In shelves. The Wimpy Kid was right there on the top; he clutched it to his chest as we rode the escalator up to the kids' section.
It was the two of us and a bookseller, all alone on the second floor. She's seen us before, and, I imagine, she knows what to expect. Mr. 9 has many questions. He asks for help in locating an author, wonders if other titles are available, and then he finds a compilation of the 10 Best Everythings in basketball.
We spent a long time going through the book. We stumbled over the foreign names. I gave him the brief history of Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul Jabaar, leaving out his sexual exploits. He recognized Dr. J, but most of the other, older players were new to him. I thanked my lucky stars for a sister who loved the 1960-70's Knicks, and for a husband and a son and a daughter who keep me updated on what I need to know to converse with a well-versed 4th grader. We argued over the book's anointing LeBron James as The Best Basketball Player Ever - I held out for Michael Jordan. The debate ended in a tie, we think.
I was captivated by the board books for Valentines Day, and claimed Big Kisses for FlapJilly. Mr. 9 was curious about it ("It's for the baby, right?") as I reassured him that I was not choosing a bright blue cardboard book with an elephant on the cover for either him or his brother or Elizibeth.
Did he want me to read it to him? YES!
And so, we sat in a nook and he snuggled closer and closer as more and more kisses rained down on the heads of the characters. At the end, we agreed that there had been a lot of kisses, that FlapJilly would love it, and that, YES, he would like a kiss right then, too.
The bookseller smiled from behind the shelving cart.
He took me to the biography section, and we discussed those people he recognized and those he didn't. The United States presidents as kids... Rosa Parks.... and then a soccer goalie whose outstretched arm looked larger than life.
Mr. 9 picked up Tim Howard's biography and read the blurb on the back.
He stumbled over Tourette's Syndrome - the pronunciation and the definition.
"Imagine being in 4th grade math and all of a sudden your body starts twitching and your mouth starts yelling curses at the top of your lungs and you can't do anything to stop it. You just have to wait until the episode ends."
"You can't stop it?" was all he said as he flipped through the book and returned it to the shelf. We went on to look at some more chapter books and then, he announced, it was time to go. We strolled to the escalator, he got on first, and halfway down he turned and said
Sometimes, I just hate the world.Was it his parents' divorce? Was it ISIS? Was it that his brother is taller than he? "Why, sweetheart?" I asked.
Why would the world make you curse and twitch and not be able to stop it? Why would that happen? I sometimes just hate the world.If that's not the most precious thing you've heard all day, please leave your entry in the comments below. My heart leapt out of my chest and enfolded him in a huge hug once we landed on the first floor. "I know, sweetheart, I know. You are the kindest kid I know. When I'm faced with something like that, I feel overwhelmed. So, I try to make my corner of the world just a little bit nicer, and hope that the love spreads out."
He nodded. He agreed that kindness helps most everything, and that his Ben's Bells necklace identified him as someone who cared. And then, we went on to something else.
But, I've been thinking about it for the last few days. Kayla Meuller, unvaccinated school kids, Boko Harun... sometimes I guess I just hate the world, too. If it overwhelms me, how must it feel to a 9 year old?