Another cold, blustery day. Knock on the door. My neighbor's car won't start. He thinks his battery needs a jump. I throw my coat on and trudge out onto the seemingly perpetual ground cover of crunchy ice, snow, and gravel which comprises our apartment parking lot. It's been a brutal winter and all of us are just about keeping up. Dead batteries only add to the misery. Last night we had a blast of freezing rain which leads to scraping all the car windows free of ice before we can even drive out the parking lot. Gabe helps me with my windows and I then back my car up and next to his. His younger son, Seth, is huddled in the back seat of dad's car, patiently waiting for the motor to turn over. Cables attached, Gabe continues to turn the ignition key but the car just cranks, coughs, and fails to start. Somewhat embarrassed, he grins at me and realizes that he may be out of gas. No problem. I offer to take him to the nearest gas station for an emergency fill-up. He brings Seth over to my car and straps him into one of the girls' rear car seats. Then Gabe goes to find a container for the gasoline.
Seth and I are alone in the car. This little four-year-old kid is fairly shy but seems to be handling his time with me okay.
Suddenly, out of the back, I hear him playing out loud, making imaginary sounds and creating his own special world of sound effects.
I feel like I have just been transported back in time about 30 years or more. I'm hearing my son, Joseph, in the back seat doing what little boys love to do ... making all the excited inflections that only a boy fighting dragons, or flying an airplane, or swinging a sword against a pirate can utter.
I turn in my seat and Seth is, indeed, holding a slightly raveled crocheted football in his hand and, most likely, running down field for the touchdown in his mind.
What a beautiful sight to see this little guy totally self-contained, playing out loud, unaware of the older neighbor lady in the front seat grinning back at him.
This is exactly how I remember my little boy playing. And his little boy playing too ...
Joseph and Ben. Son and grandson. The two guys in my life.
I am so used to the play sounds of my four granddaughters that I completely forget just how different the energy and tone of boys can be. Girls coo, giggle, sometimes sigh and shout, but boys seem to express a much more primal energy. They thrust, weave, choreograph and swish in another dimension.
A neighbor's child helps me revisit that wondrous, magical kingdom once again. And I remember just how much I miss it.
For a few precious moments, I'm hearing my boys ... being boys.