I'm not sure where this one came from, all my boys are in college. Sometimes a story just decides to come out of the blue.
“Mom, I need a baby picture for the yearbook….”
The shout was punctuated by the slam of the front door, the opening of the fridge door, closing of the fridge door and then the reopening of the fridge door.
“Do we have anything to eat?”
With a sigh, Devon’s mother tried to ignore her son. He’d be in her office soon enough, why rush things?
“Ma,” he called again. The fridge door hadn’t closed yet, so she was pretty sure he was drinking milk from the carton while looking for something to eat as well. “Did you hear me? I need a baby picture for the yearbook.”
“I heard you,” she yelled back. “I’m working, we can look later.”
“Whatever. Did you go food shopping yet?”
“There’s fruit on the counter, otherwise the kitchen is closed until I’m done working. Go do your homework.”
“Whatever,” he yelled again.
The fridge door closed and shortly after that, his heavy steps moved up the stairs and slam of his bedroom door. She heard the thud of his back pack hitting the floor and pounding of his music as he turned on his speakers.
Her eyes fell on her favorite photo from when the boys were little. It was taken at Devon’s 10th birthday party, which they had at Fenway Park. It had been an unusually warm April day and they lucked out in that Pedro was on the mound. In the photo, all the boys had a big red “K” painted on their shirtless chests. Two of them had on big, red foam fingers and all of them had ear to ear grins on their faces.
They were so sweet back then.
Michael was in college, Devon was graduating this year and Timmy was finishing his sophomore year.
Staring at her computer screen with a sigh, she realized her concentration was gone. Perhaps she needed a break from the grant she was writing for now. It was often Devon acknowledged her presence these days, so maybe it was a good opportunity to see what he needed.
She looked at the photo again. What was it he said he needed? A baby picture. Perhaps one of the photos from that day would do the trick. She stopped in the living room and pulled out the green box labeled “Summer 2003-2004.” Digging through, she quickly found the pictures.
There was the one of him with the Japanese tourists girls posing around him, the girls flashing peace signs while he grinned. Then there was the one of the bleacher creature who had just painted his chest. He was holding Devon up like Simba, the Lion King, for the crowd’s adoration and approval… both of which he received. Of course there was the one with his brothers, but she suspected that particular one would be lower on his list than the other two.
Slipping quietly upstairs, she knocked on his door. She heard the music soften a bit before he bellowed, “Come in.”
“Hey, how about one of these?” she handed him the photos.
Pausing he looked at the pile of photos and smiled.
“I remember this. It was my birthday and Pedro was pitching. The guys were painting K’s on their chests for every strikeout Pedro recorded. I asked if I could get painted too and you shrugged and said, ‘Why not, you’re taking a bath when you get home.’ I couldn’t believe how cool a mom you were.”
He looked through them, tenderly touching the one of him and his brothers.
“We were so little.”
“You grow up, it happens.”
He shrugged, “I guess. It’s funny I still remember all the details of that day. Everything from being excited we took the T into the game to the game itself. I remember I was so excited to sit in the bleachers because we never got to sit in the bleachers. And sitting right over the bullpen like that,” he whistled.
“How cool was it that Pedro was pitching. I remember I got Tek to sign my ball cap because it was my birthday. He was warming Pedro up in the pen before the game. Then dad bought me the foam finger,” he pointed to the wall where it still hung over his bed.
“You know what I remember about that day? I remember that you three didn’t fight at all that day.”
“There was nothing to fight about. It was like everything was perfect that day. The weather, the seats, the game… everything.”
He looked at the photo with the Japanese tourists.
“Why do they pose with strangers like that?”
“Do you still have the photo of Mikey with the Japanese tourists at the duckling statues?”
“Next to this one in my office,” she pointed at the photo of the three of them.
“I was so little.”
“Well, I suppose it’s a good thing you’re over six feet now or playing ball would be difficult right now.”
“Yesterday I was talking to some of my friends. They were talking about how their parents have always told them what to do. You guys weren’t like that.”
“What’s the point of sending you to school to learn how to think on your own if we didn’t let you do just that.”
“I’ve been thinking about colleges.”
“I’d be surprised if you weren’t.”
“I think I want to stay close to home. If I can keep my math grades up, I might be able to get into Commonwealth College at UMass Amherst. I know it’s the honors program out there, but I’m pretty sure I could handle it.”
“Does that mean you finally picked a major?”
“I’m leaning towards education.”
“Really,” she said, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah. I just spent my community service time in Mr. Swaim’s room over at the elementary school. He made it seem so cool. The kids responded well and I really liked how he was able to be friendly and strict at the same time.”
“I could see you as a teacher. Sounds like a good idea. Any other schools you were thinking of?”
“BC and Framingham are a little too close, but Bridgewater looks good too.”
“We can take a drive down to check it out if you want. I notice, with the exception of ruling out BC, you’re only mentioning state schools. Is there a reason for that?”
He looked back at the photos.
“I think I like this one,” he said looking at the one of the three of them. “If they don’t let me use that one or want to crop out Mikey and Timmy, then I’ll go with this one,” he said indicating the Lion King photo.
“I’ll make copies in the morning. You didn’t answer my question.”
He looked up over his bed. There was a poster of Jason Varitek his brothers gave him that birthday next to the foam finger. There were also laminated front pages from the Boston papers from 2004 and 2007 of the Red Sox series wins.
“Hey mom, could you make an extra of this one,” he said indicating the photo of the three of them. “I’d kind of like to have it.”
“Are you going to answer my question?”
“I don’t want leave home yet. Is that a bad thing? I mean, I don’t want to stay home or anything like that, but I don’t want to go too far away either.”
“I can understand that feeling.”
“Are you OK with that?”
“Are you OK with the photos I picked?”
He smiled. “I want a copy of it, what do you think?”
“We can still look for other photos.”
“No, these are good.”
“Should we think about other schools?”
“No, UMass and Bridgewater are good.”
She took the photos from him.
“You know, I love this photo. I love the joy, I love the lightness, I love the innocence. The problem is it’s a snapshot in time. As much as I love this moment in time, you can’t stay there forever. If you do, you miss the other equally as wonderful moments.”
“Thanks for not telling me what schools I need to go to in order to be set for life.”
“If I didn’t like your choices, I won’t pay the tuition.”
They both laughed.
“You like my choices?”
“I’m think I can cover those schools. You know Bridgewater is a division 3 school.”
“That’s OK, I’m not going to play ball after high school.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m no Mark Bellhorn.”
It was her turn to laugh.
“How did I have such a smart kid?”
“I knew you’d get it. You let Mikey walk away when he ready and on his terms. You’ll let Timmy do the same. I’m good with where I am. It’s been a lot of fun but it’s becoming work. Once it becomes work, what’s the point?”
“It’s your call, either way you know Dad and I will support you on your decisions about both baseball and schools.”
“I know you will.”
“Hey, do me a favor will you.”
“Keep the music down, I have a proposal to write and your dad will be hope soon.”
“I can do that.”
She left his room, closing the door softly behind her. She wondered if it would be harder when it was Timmy’s turn to leave and all that would be left were the photos and echoes. Wiping a tear from her eye she went back downstairs to her office as his music started up again, this time a bit lower. He was a good kid, always had been. Now he was growing into a good man. Just like his brother before him and his brother behind him. They’d always be her little boys, but now it was time to push another bird from the nest.