At my tennis lesson last week, I saw a young woman who looked familiar. She was a little older than Anna, and I was having trouble placing her. I went back to trying to focus on my forehand when it hit me, “Hey. Did you happen to go to Morrow Preschool?”
Suddenly I could picture this slim young woman as a little girl a dozen years ago, with rosy cheeks and a glowing smile, playing with Jack on the playground at their preschool.
“You were in my son Jack’s class.”
“Wow. I’m not sure I remember him. Does he go to the high school?”
I sometimes freeze when I get hit with what’s happened. Maplewood is usually a safe place, where everyone knows our story. Where I don’t need to say things out loud. My stomach turned as I tried to choose my words so that we could simply go back to groundstrokes and drop shots, “No. Jack goes to a special school. His life’s kinda complicated.”
Now that we were both feeling awkward, I wished I hadn’t started this exchange and quickly looked for a transition. Her sweatshirt was bright and new with the name of her future, WESLEYAN, “You’re a senior this year? Heading off to Wesleyan in the fall? That’s wonderful.”
That’s all it took. Her smile grew, as she went from wondering what happened to her old classmate, to thinking about the adventures that lay ahead. We were both allowed to continue with our lesson, focusing on easier things than how complicated life can be.
When I got home from the lesson, I went into Jack’s room to say goodnight. He was sitting up in bed, and as soon as I walked in the door, he gave me a big smile as if he’d been waiting for me to tuck him in. I gave him a kiss on his forehead and laid him back down. As I covered him up, I realized he was wearing the bright purple NORTHWESTERN sweatshirt that we’d gotten him last year while visiting my parent’s alma mater.
The sweatshirt is missing all but 3 1/2 of it’s letters. Jack has somehow managed to eat the rest. He has eaten the O,R,T,H, most of the W, E, S, T, and E.
I can’t make this stuff up. It is a college sweatshirt that’s missing the college.