My son came home from school Thursday and told me that his best pal is moving to Colorado. His buddy Nathan hadn’t been at school the last two days and on Thursday sent my son an email titled “Farewell”. In it Nathan explained, vaguely(he is a 13-year old boy, after all), that he was moving to Colorado to finish out the school year and to live with his mom. He mentioned the name of the school he would be attending and then said he’d miss my son, saying that they’d see each other again someday. My son let me read the email, to which I replied “Would Nathan actually title an email ‘Farewell’?” “Yes he would” my son replied. My boy’s only reply underneath Nathan’s email was this, “Sorry to sound mean, but is this a joke?”( my son turns 13 in less than two months.)
When my wife got home from work I told her what was going on and she messaged Nathan’s dad to let him know we were sorry to hear Nathan was moving away and that we hope the best for him. His dad replied back that Nathan was going to really miss our son and that maybe this would just be temporary. Nathan may be back for next school year. Either way, he appreciated the message.
I have to be honest, I didn’t really know Nathan all that well. It seems kids don’t have friends like they had friends when I was a kid. When I was my son’s age I had my pals over all the time, sleeping over on the weekends, during holidays, and 3 or 4 days at a time in the summer. My parents knew my friends and my friends knew my parents. They were like my brothers from other mothers. With my kids, I could count on one hand how many sleepovers my two youngest have had at our house in the last 5 years(and that’s if my hand was missing a couple digits.) My oldest, on the other hand, for her and her friends our place was hang out central. Even now when she’s home from school she’ll have 4 or 5 of her pals over to hang out, eat, watch movies, and gossip about whatever 17-year old girls that don’t get drunk or party gossip about(getting into college, boys, school drama, boys.) But my 14 and 12 year old? It’s like they don’t want anyone here. I’m not sure if it’s because of my wife and I or them. I feel like I’m starting to develop a complex about it. “Wh…wh…wh…what’s wrong with our house? Are you embarrassed by us?” I’d say to myself during weird conversations in my head as I’m trying to go to sleep. My 14-year old daughter, her best friend has a 3-story house pretty much all to herself as her parents run a small restaurant in town called The Cozy Cottage. They’re at the Cozy from the crack of dawn to the evening, so my daughter’s friend is on her own to get around for school, do her homework, eat, and whatever else. She does pretty well for herself, as she’s had to for so long. But I think the idea of a massive house at two teenage girls disposal is a much better proposition than coming to our barely 1,200 square foot ranch-style and hang out in my daughter’s bedroom, or the finished basement. I suppose I get that. Plus, she’s got a goofy Australian Shepherd that likes to eat everything, so that’s entertaining.
My son, on the other hand, I don’t get. He’s a homebody. He loves being home and hanging out in his room. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t want to have a pal over and hang out. The buddy that’s moving to Colorado has never been over. My son had a birthday party 3 years ago where one kid from his class showed. Other than that, just the weird neighbor kid has been over occasionally. Nathan’s house isn’t much bigger than ours, so it’s not a space thing I don’t think. But Nathan lived in town. There’s lots to explore. I think twice while my son was over at Nathan’s house they rode bikes across town and got lunch. Once they went and got pot stickers and egg drop soup at the Great Wall, while another time they got Mexican food at another local establishment. Nathan also lived near Oakwood Cemetery. It’s the main cemetery in town over by Pike Lake. It’s huge. I remember going there in high school and taking photos of headstones for Photography class. My son said that him and Nathan used to go over there and run around for hours, exploring the variety of headstones. They were fascinated at the older ones. These tiny limestone markers that had names like “Abel”, “Lucretia”, and “Ole” that were born not long after the Civil War, and died not long after they were born. He said they’d get home from exploring after dark, sweaty, scratched up, with nettles stuck to their socks. But they had fun. Lots of fun.
I’d ask my son if Nathan liked comic books. He replied “No, not really.” Does he like watching comic book movies, or playing with action figures or Legos? “Nope.” “Hmm…” I’d wonder. So what was it that those two bonded over? My best friend and I bonded over Star Wars, Transformers, GI Joe, music, horror films, and that elusive thing the opposite sex. There was plenty for us to fill our time with. Building forts in my bedroom based off my bunk beds. We took trips to Cedar Point, Kings Island, and boating excursions with my grandma on Lake Manitou. I was puzzled as to what it was that bonded my son with his buddy Nathan. But then he mentioned he liked horror movies and video games, like my son. They both seemed to have the same, quirky sense of humor, too. Finding funny in unlikely places is one of the true gifts a person can have, and when you find a fellow human who shares that innate gift it’s truly a treasure. And of course the adventuring. The city bike adventures, pot sticker lunches, and cemetery exploring are the kinds of activities that transcend comic books, action figures, and some of that other “kid stuff”. A scar from a pebble on your shin will always take you back to that tumble that you got it from. That startle you got that made you take off in the first place. It will always be there, and the person you shared it with will always be there, too.
I’m sad for my son and for Nathan, but I hope this is a move for the positive for the boy. I don’t know what’s going on in his life to cause such a quick, abrupt move. One can speculate, but that never does anyone any good. Hopefully his dad is right and that it will be a temporary move. Maybe this time next year my son and his pal will be laughing at weird things again, and running from non-existent dangers in cemeteries. Or sharing a pot of hot tea and crab rangoon at The Great Wall.
Either way, best of luck in Colorado Nathan. Here’s to new adventures, and never forgetting the old ones.