Thursday, August 17, 2006


Coolness, I have decided, must be a recessive gene. Matt and I, growing up, had our groups of friends, but neither of us would describe ourselves as one of the cool kids. But something must be there, because John, we are realizing with some awe, seems to be cool.

I got my first hint of it right after we moved up here. As someone who, at times growing up, was not only not cool but patently uncool, I try to sniff out any sign of John being bullied or made fun of. Some might point out that I'm setting him up for a nice little complex, but I am subtle. I asked him about the bus -- who he sat next to, what they talked about, if there was any funny stuff going on (because, ack, he rides the bus with high school kids).

He sat next to a sixth-grader who lives up the road and who, John told me, said John was cool. That threw me into a frenzy of intrigue worthy of 18th-century France. Was the sixth-grader kidding? Was he stringing John along to make himself cool? Did he mean it? I mean, *I* think John is cool, but does everyone else?

John also then told me about Bubba-on-the-bus (yeah, I know). Bubba, it turns out, is a high-school kid whose name is not really Bubba. Bubba would get on the bus and John would stand up and yell, "Big hug, Bubba!" with his arms wide open. Now, if that's not cause for huge mocking, what is? I ask you. But apparently Bubba would bob his head, or give a high-five, or, occasionally and God bless 'im, actually hug my son.

"What's his real name?" I asked.

John shrugged. "I dunno. I just call him Bubba, because he looks like one."

Then there was the other high-school kid who would get on the bus, look at John's golden tumble of locks and say, "Gawd, your hair is just so cool. I wish I had hair like that. Wanna trade? Can I have your hair?" And John would sit and beam.

And now there's soccer. John had a revelation worthy of hidden lights shining on his face and sparkles in his eyes the other day and realized that soccer is much like hockey, only without skates and sticks, and this knowledge has put him far ahead of his teammates. He ranges up and down the field and scored his first goal the other day. Matt said John looks like he knows what he's doing out there, and everyone else sees it too.

I have not been to a game because of work. But when Matt calls and tells me about the game, he says, "EVERYONE, all the parents and all the kids, knows John's name. He gets the ball and everyone hollers for him. It's really kind of amazing."

"I think it's his hair," I said. "People remember his hair."

"Maybe," Matt said. "I think he might"

He then told me something that happened that, if it had happened to Matt at the same age, "Someone would have threatened to kick my ass." And I said, if it had happened to me, "Someone would have gazed at me and said 'I am so...shurr' or, alternately, 'You are"

The other night after the game, as they were walking back to the truck ("See ya, John!" "Good game, John!" "Nice goal, John, keep it up!"), John said to a kid who looked about 12: "See you, Derrick!"

And Matt said that after they passed, Derrick turned to his mom and said, "That's John. He's really cool. He calls me Derrick -- I don't know why, but whatever, he's just...really cool."


  1. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Your interrogation of John about the bus sounds just like me with Nate! How he is doing academically, who cares, but socially, big deal! And whats this about Matt's group of friends in high school not really being cool.......

  2. Oh, I'm so busted, aren't I. Hey, nowhere did I say "high school"! Or friends not being cool!

    Not that we were all a bunch of geeks, of course.

    Hey, I need to call you and get you up here. Do you want to come up before school starts, or after?

  3. Is it awful, the mix of feelings I have about this post? That I feel so pleased about the coolness and yet also get a little worried pit in my stomach and then something resembling some sort of hope and then a touch of cynical rebellion and then more genuine happiness?

    And for what it's worth, I think you're pretty cool yourself. Although, my cool factor has always been on the low side so my seal of coolness might not get you very far.

  4. PK, I totally know what you're saying. It's interesting, though -- when I took John to his end-of-school-year party (hot dogs and root-beer floats on the playground), I watched him play and saw an older kid make fun of him. John was saying, "Hey guys! Watch! Watch what I can do!" and this older (third grade?) kid looked at him and said, "What, poop your pants? Haw haw haw haw haw haw haw!" and his minions laughed with him. And John, who is literal to a fault, said, "No, WATCH!" and got up on the swing and swung standing up.

    Well, since the uncouth kids didn't get the reaction they wanted, and John didn't get the adulation he wanted, the whole situation just kind of dissolved and went away. When I asked about it later, he seemed completely oblivious to the fact that the other kids were being rude. Which can be a good and bad thing, I guess.

  5. And you are so cool. AND your kids!

  6. I think it might be something about the way you've raised John to be confident and comfortable with himself. And I think that's really awesome.

    And because it's Friday I will bite my tongue and not make any "funny" comments about the nick-naming habit your son shares with our President. ;)

  7. HA! Sarahlynn, I was totally thinking of bringing Bush's nicknaming habit into this. I mean, what kind of person gives people completely random nicknames? The president...and my son.

  8. Hey, I'll confirm: John is cool. And because I can't quite describe why, I know that makes it all the more true. Coolness is sort of inherently undefinable. Because once you figure it out, it can't possible be cool.

    But I will also say that John is cool in a way that most cool people aren't. Cool typically involves being somewhat detached, aloof, and beyond the typical and provincial tugs of heartstrings that make the rest of us self-conscious, too emotional, etc.

    John is somehow cool and very sincere, cool and emotionally engaged.

    So maybe it is just the hair after all. =)

    I see a bit of coolness in Grace, in our family. Not so much in Sarah; she's aiming to be the same ambitious yet insecure person that I was most of my life. Nowadays, I'm slightly less ambitious and slightly more secure. But trying to figure out that relationship is beyond me...just an observation!

    And the cool verdict is still out on Emma and Anne.

  9. Thank you, Krup. And I will cop to totally using John to get the Boy reved up for soccer, which he is somewhat ambivalent about. He's the one who wanted to play, but then he says he sort of doesn't. So I totally pulled the "Hey! John's playing too!" card.