02 December 2011
Wicked Awesome Twins
It took all of second grade and the first three months of third grade before Liam felt secure enough to wear his Minnesota Twins shirt to his new school in New Hampshire. New Englanders are fierce about their Boston Red Sox and he understood this from day one. Being the new kid takes some serious maneuvering - you can't just do anything you want or you might magnify your differences. And nobody wants to be friends with the kid who talks funny and wears strange clothing. Like shirts representing baseball teams that are not the Red Sox.
After his first day (literally, the first day), he got in the car and started quizzing us. What is the best baseball team? What is our favorite team? What is a rival? Are the Twins a rival to anybody? Are there any baseball teams that hate the Twins? Who are the Yankees? Why are they so bad? What does "wicked" mean?
And the Twins shirt stayed in the drawer.
It was brand new. I had bought it just days before our move from Minnesota as a reminder of our home, something to bring him comfort and happiness. But that was a mistake made with my adult mind, a common mistake for parents. After the first day of school, I understood how that reminder of home outed him as an outsider......which is fine if you're a grown up but not if you're trying to make friends on the playground.
As time went on, I assumed he'd get more secure with his classmates and eventually feel like wearing his Twins shirt. Maybe even enjoy it. When I was the new kid in second grade, I liked being the girl from California. I rode that wave for years. I led people to believe that I grew up on the backlot of Paramount and ate breakfast on the beach every day........when I actually spent most of my time in dry, desert towns or almost-rural farming communities. Completely unglamorous places. Even at 7 years old, our VW bus was my salvation..........taking me to other places that had something, please god anything, going on.
But Liam is not like me. He took this fandom thing very seriously, as if there were rules and consequences, so that it could be the key to his assimilation..........and he adopted the persona of a Red Sox fan. To be Not-a-Red-Sox-Fan was just too risky.
And each time I saw the Twins shirt in the drawer, I worried that he would grow out of it before he even got to enjoy it. But I understood. He had to keep this hidden so he could start his life here.
But then this summer, his friend Aidan visited from Minnesota and brought him a package of baseball cards. Minnesota Twins baseball cards. And I don't think I have ever seen a child accept a gift so authentically; it was like someone had opened a drawer that had been locked up tight. And the drawer had stuff in it that you really, really liked but you hadn't been allowed to enjoy it for a year. It was the most personal exchange I have ever seen between two little boys. No, between two boys PERIOD. Even grown up boys could not be this pure in their giving and receiving.
Three months later, Liam comes home from school, and as he's taking off his jacket, I see the light blue of his Twins shirt start to emerge. What the what?! I stand there and I want to say something but I don't want to scare the little bunny away! I see how the sleeves just barely cover his shoulders and how the hemline comes dangerously close to revealing his belly .......and it's like this giant billboard advertising the passage of time.
Time had allowed him to shake the mantle of the new kid. His feet felt firmer underneath him. He felt less vulnerable and more able to be himself.
And I am relieved. And happy. And proud. Because my kid had worked hard and he was successfully emerging on the other side of insecurity.
And, plus, it's a really cute shirt.