Maybe if I ignore him, he’ll go away.
“Mom?” he whispered and gently shook my shoulder, “Wake up.”
He wasn’t going away.
I opened one eye. It was dark o’clock but, while it’s been night-dark in the early morning for the last couple of months, this felt different.
It was different.
Noah, and three of his neighborhood squad, had seventh-grade basketball team tryouts at 6:00 a.m. all that week and I had volunteered to drive. Leaving the house at 5:40 a.m. meant that I had to get up an hour earlier than normal. I can handle lack of sleep — my whining has to do with the painful moment between dream bliss and harsh reality happening an hour earlier.
Noah stood over me until I gave him physical, feet-on-the-floor confirmation that I was, indeed, awake.
An hour-earlier-morning feels pretty much like all school day mornings — grumble downstairs, pour coffee, find joy in coffee, make Noah’s lunch, send him off, and eat breakfast whilst watching the news.
And for five days that week I added basketball tryout taxiing to my routine.
It was an easy circular route — Jaret, Eli, and, finally, Ryan, who had to climb over two boys to get to the way-back seat.
As the driver and senior member of the minivan population, I felt that I had to be hostess. I greeted each boy (over-enthusiastically), offered discussion starters (again, way too perky), and encouraged continued dialog.
I dropped that act halfway to school and let the glow of cell phones illuminate the silent vehicle.
When they got out, the silence was broken with four Thank yous.
We switched up the route a little that day, Jaret got up late. Eli first, then Jaret, and then Ryan (who had to climb over two boys to get to the way-backseat).
The phones glowed in silence again.
Noah, Jaret, Eli and Ryan (who had to climb over two boys to get to the way-backseat) were all quiet until Noah reminded me of an after-school dodgeball tournament that week.
I shuddered audibly at horrid memories of the game, but my disdain fueled the chatter. They love dodgeball. The mere mention of it caused them to look-up from their glowing hands.
They talked strategy, told me the rules of different versions, and recapped past games they had played in PE. Then, Eli made my day.
“When my parents were in school, they played with a fully inflated, hard rubber ball,” he said. “You gotta admire that.”
Aha! “Right! You guys have squishy, foam balls. Yeah, it was hardcore dodgeball in our day. Hard. Core.”
For this part to make sense you need to know one thing — Eli is a big, tall kid.
As we pulled out of our driveway, Noah sparked with a plan.
When we pulled up to Eli’s house, we could see the glow of his phone through the door glass, but he wasn’t moving. Because it was “No Horn” o’clock, we waited for him to notice us. And waited. And waited.
The longer the wait, the more satisfying it was when he finally saw us, came out, opened the van door, and realized that he was the last to be picked-up.
Big, tall Eli had to climb over two boys to get to the way-back seat.
It was the last day of try-outs and the somber talk focused on who wouldn’t make the team.
For the fifth time that week, they all thanked me.
I love these kids and would do anything for any of them. I know that their parents feel the same way, so I shared the carpool joy when we all worked out a schedule for the 6:00 a.m. basketball practices.
I took the first day.
Noah had to wake me.