When the woman from the junior high attendance office called me on Friday to tell me that my eighth grader, With-a-Why, had been marked absent, I gave her my standard reply. “That’s right,” I said. “He’s absent.”
I didn’t add the part that might call into questioning my judgment as a parent. “Yeah, he’s on a roadtrip with a bunch of college students.”
With-a-Why isn’t even in high school yet, and he’s already spent considerable time hanging out with college students. He’s the youngest person to play on the Snowstorm City Ultimate League. He’s already earned the nickname Donatello because of the purple scarf that he knit himself and uses as a headband to keep back his long black hair. I think the nickname fits – not because of the superficial resemblance to the Mutant Ninja Turtle, but because the original Donatello was an artist.
The only thing that shows With-a-Why’s age is the way he packs. While his older brothers and First Extra were packing t-shirts, underwear, and hoodies, With-a-Why stretched out on the couch, half-asleep, hoping his Mom would come to his rescue. “Have you seen my purple shorts?” When I came downstairs to say goodbye to the group – handing my car keys and my good camera to my persuasive oldest son – the only things With-a-Why had packed were a chess board, his knitting, and the stuffed dog he likes to sleep with.
First Extra hurried the group along, getting Shaggy Hair Boy to move his stuff out to the car. Boy in Black was still trying to work his charm on me. “Yeah, thanks for the car and the camera. Could I borrow your credit card too?” They had a long drive ahead of them – almost five hundred miles to the College Ultimate Championships. As With-a-Why stumbled sleepily out to driveway, I heard him say to First Extra, “I couldn’t find the deodorant. So I used toothpaste instead.”