Kid One came home from his last-ever day of high school with two of his friends – call them Skywalker and Zim – young men who’ve been hanging out at our house since they were young boys: many nights, many meals, and many hours of video games. Reticent but amenable when pressed into service fashioning homemade ravioli or moving furniture, they were only sneaky once – at 2AM the infamous night it Snowed At The Beach. They’ve always treated Kid Two like their own kid brother, a tremendous plus in my book, and will always be welcome.
Skywalker and Zim are part of a larger, variable group who’ve shown up at our house after the Last Day of School for over a decade. There was a degree of formality back in elementary school. Phone calls with parents, notes for the bus driver, pick-up times, negotiations over appropriately-rated movies, then computer games, then video games. By fourth grade we had six or more extra kids spending the night on a pretty regular basis. Last Day of School parties were extended to include Last Day Before Winter Break, Last Day Before Spring Break, and often, Last Day of the Week.
For their Last Day of Elementary School I asked Kid One for a head count and made what in retrospect was an arch comment about feeding a gang of boys dinner and breakfast yet again.
“Don’t worry about food, Mom,” he assured me. “I told them this was a potluck.”
Hmm. I’d never hosted a potluck, and still have absolutely no idea how he came up with the idea. Imagine, if you will, phone calls from confused parents asking about casseroles and dip. Repeating exactly what Kid One requested, I said only, “Just bring enough of their favorite dish to feed everyone.”
When the evening arrived, Skywalker brought guacamole he had made himself, and Zim brought a big tray of sushi rolls. The other kids’ KFC and ice cream drumsticks didn’t stand a chance. One of my favorite memories is still that of the group of boys sitting around our dining room table, hotly defending their favorite dishes – daring each other to taste pure wasabi, talking about guacamole and their favorite Mexican restaurants. Sharing food stories at twelve.
Preteens are really exposed only to the food they’re given at home or see at the lunchroom table. At that age their taste buds are changing, but they have tremendously varying comfort levels about trying new things. It was a truly a genius move on Kid One’s part, although he probably just thinks he was trying to save Mom some trouble. Nonetheless, I felt like I was witnessing a sea change in how they thought about food.
Fast forward six years. The formality is gone; they make their own plans and drive themselves. They’re tall now. They don’t show up as often, either; there’s sports, dates, exams, jobs – all the trappings of young adulthood. But still, after their last day of high school, Skywalker and Zim showed up with Kid One about 1pm, ate pizza, played video games, popped popcorn, played video games, then joined me in the kitchen to chop onions and peppers that Kid One grilled outside. We set up a burrito bar with a rotisserie chicken, chili beans, shredded cheese, and the grilled veggies and all sat together to eat. After clearing their plates and thanks for the meal, they then went back to playing video games. It’s often true that the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.