Boy iiRed and gold leaves wafted down onto the empty playground this morning and blustery winds pushed the leaves along. I breathed in through my nose.  Above, storm clouds blanketed the hillside in gray.

Ah, sweet wet air!

As I stood, I drifted among pre-storm ions and boyhood memories of incoming storms. Running in rain, sucking in cold air, getting wet, loving all of it.

Now, wind came on a second time, dropping more leaves and through this tumbling curtain of fall color, my dreaming paused as a boy stepped onto the playground, following three paces behind mother. The pair walked a few feet from me, speechless. He gave me a glance and I could see that this boy, Espy, had brought his own kind of weather.

The curly haired, scrappy boy shuffled along in green shoes and jeans so big that they drooped below his back side. This outfit was his norm,  so I saw nothing out of wack. Even the red bandana, tied off with one end skyward and the other to the side, fell within his usual range.

What I did not see? This boy, running, screaming, climbing, hanging upside down, and scratching his belly. Today, he was not himself. Instead, he traipsed behind mother as she slinked in her tight maroon and black dress, four-inch heels, and alligator handbag.

The pair crossed the four-square courts, boy scratching behind ear, and mother, chin up ignoring him. Once at the bench, she yanked his belt loop to make him sit next to her.

They both sat up, however, when Nelson, Espy’s best friend, scrambled over the east fence and ran toward the play structure.  These boys were almost twins except that one wore a bandana and the other a backward green cap. Seeing Nelson, Espy lit up. Hey Nelson! – but mother tugged him back down.

Not so fast, son.

So, with boy’s face cloudier still , he remained seated. Nelson, meanwhile, kept climbing. When reached the apex of the play structure, he turned toward his friend as if to ask – Espy, can you play with me?

Not today, friend. This bird was grounded.

I  had no intention of interfering with mother and son. However, their interaction brought flashbacks of my boyhood – about being in trouble all the time with nuns, neighbor ladies, and shop keepers.  Once I heard my second grade teacher talking to the principal: “What’s the point in boys? They are nothing more than mistakes in motion. Complete nuisances.” Indeed, the other nun nodded.

My dreams snapped again as the rain came on. Time to get indoors. I blew my whistle. Children spilled in from far courts. Espy’s mother, meanwhile, let her son get up. As he ran by me, he smacked my hand in a low five. Then, his mother approached.

“Please don’t encourage him,” she said and then, as she turned  – “What I’d do for a girl!”

What? Oh no! Come back, I said. But she declined so I let her go. What a shame! She was missing out. For inside, she could have seen explorers, dreamers, cloud kissers, fighters and peacemakers of the future all jockeying for their place under clear or cloudy skies. Not one mistake here. Instead, apprentices awakening, sparring, and searching for at least one fair witness to this short storm called boyhood.


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