There goes Junior. Running up the bus line.
He begged me to drop him off at school again. The 40 minute bus ride makes him bus sick unless he eats a bland breakfast (his words), but lately that isn’t even helping. It’s nerves, I know. The end of school. The possibilities of summer. The uncertainty of second grade.
I relent. Yes, I tell him, I will drop you off. He and Everett settle onto the couch, to eat a banana and English muffin (appropriate items on Junior’s bland food list) while they watch Curious George.
“Everett, it’s a new episode!” he says with the same overdone enthusiasm a parent might use as he or she exclaims over the slide or a small feat at the playground and I can see Junior already as he might be someday with his own children. At almost seven he has mastered the nuances of relating to a small child, of slowing down to help his brother navigate the world. He ties his brother’s shoe laces. He explains his bad dreams. He lets his brother use his Legos (“Just don’t take the character’s hat off again, ok? Ok, Everett? Because then it gets loose and falls off and I’ll lose it. Ok, Everett? Just don’t take if off again.”).
He won’t even take a sticker from the doctor’s office unless he can have one for his brother too. ("My brother might be disappointed if he can't have a sticker too," he'll tell the receptionist.)
It’s really rather endearing.
But there’s exasperation too. Of course there is. I see it as we get ready to leave, after Curious George is over. Everett doesn’t want Junior to leave and Junior is suddenly ready for his day to begin.
“I’ll be home soon, Everett,” he tells him. “I’m six and I have to go to school. Ok?”
“I need a kiss!”
“In the car, Everett, we still have to drive to school.”
We drive. Junior reminds me to sign him up for camp (“You’ll have to go to a different camp, Everett. One for toddlers. Ok?”) He tells me he’s not really that "juiced" for the class field trip. Then there we are at the beginning of the drive-thru bus line.
“You can take off your seat belt, honey,” I tell him.
“The car’s moving a little, Mom.”
“Junior, you’re next. I can stop here. It’s ok.”
“I want a kiss!” Everett shrieks.
“Just a minute, Everett! I’m unbuckling!”
He leans over to give Everett a kiss, then climbs out of the car. I can see the right leg of his shorts is wet. His water bottle, which hangs on the side pocket of his backpack, twisted free of its cap and is leaking. As he runs up the lawn to school the water splashes on his shorts. He stops and looks at me, confused. He’s so overly in tune with the details he misses the obvious. He starts to run again and stops. He can’t figure out why he’s getting wet—he’s that in his brain.
I roll down the window. “Your water bottle is missing its cap!”
He slaps his forehead and gives me a thumbs-up sign.
I realize, with affection, that he's probably going to be that guy. The not-so-smooth one who trips on his sneaker as the girl drives off. The one in chemistry class who doesn't realize his science partner wants a kiss because he's too intent on his beaker.
But that's fine. I knew plenty of those guys. They were great guys.
His schoolmates have now bottlenecked around him by the front door. The teacher waves him in but he can’t go in yet. He needs to explain what happened. To her. To the kindergartners. To the first and second graders. To anyone who’ll listen, really. His head is full of words running a million miles a minute and God bless his tongue, so far it has kept up.
“I really love my brother,” Everett says as we pull away from the school.
“I know,” I say. “Me too."
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