All of this happened a few weeks ago,
Valentine’s Day to be exact. It began like most things do when it comes to twelve-year-old boys, by which I mean a bet, offered so both may get over the one thing standing in their way, by which I mean fear. Speaking from experience, that’s how it works. Every fiber of your being propels you to do this one thing but deep down you know you’re too scared to do it, so you need a little help. A dare works well here. A bet works even better.
According to my son (who is both a champion darer and better), it was his friend’s idea.
I have reservations about that statement—I don’t know the friend, and this seems very much a thing my son would start—but I suppose it’s like every good story in that the beginning is important but the ending is everything. My son and his friend both happen to have crushes on two separate girls in their seventh-grade class. Alone, they could do nothing beyond staring goggle-eyed when both the girls and the teacher wasn’t looking. Call it a boy thing. When you’re twelve, any attempt to tell a girl that you like her will somehow get twisted into yanking on her hair or calling her a stupid head.
But then came an idea (again, from the friend): “I bet you won’t get her a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day.”
“Bet YOU won’t.”
“I will if you ain’t chicken.”
Challenge accepted. My boy is a Coffey. Coffeys don’t back down.
My son relayed all of this to me on the evening of February 13 as we meandered the aisles of the local Kroger. He had money enough in his pocket for a nice box of chocolates. I was impressed and made that known, but also wary and played that close to my chest.
“Who’s this girl?”
“Just some girl.”
“What’s she like?”
“She pretty and goes to church and hunts and fishes.”
Good enough for me. You always want the best for your kids.
So we got the box of chocolates which he paid for with his own money and even stood there an answered every question the cashier asked (“You in love, honey?” “What’sat lucky girl’s name?”) and then we rode home and nothing else was said for nearly three days regarding the matter. I wanted to bring the girl and the chocolates up but never did. Sometimes it’s like fishing, raising kids. You got to let them come to you.
But then around that Friday evening the two of us were sitting on the porch. My boy leaned back in the rocking chair and let out a little kind of sigh, and I knew it was time.
“Whatever happened with your bet?” I asked him.
“It went okay.”
“She like those chocolates.”
“I’m not sure.”
“Why ain’t you sure?”
“Well, I went up to give them to her and then got scared, so all I pretty much did was toss the box her way and take off running. But I think she liked it. We’re texting now. She can’t date nobody, though.”
“Neither can you.”
“That’s what I tole her.”
“And what about your friend? He keep up his end of the deal?”
“No,” he said. “He turned chicken and said we never shook on it, which we did, and then he ate the whole box hisself.”
Then he grinned and I grinned and we rocked a while together. I said I was proud of him and it’s the truth. It can be a hard thing to talk to a girl, them being so mysterious in all their ways. Harder still to open up your heart and let somebody else get a peek inside. It was a risk, no doubt about it. But life is full of those. My son will find that out the older he gets, and he’ll come to learn there are really only two kinds of people in this world. There are the ones who dream and dare make those dreams true, make them real, and whether they find success or failure on the other side doesn’t matter because at least then they’ll know.
And there are the ones who dream but never dare at all and so settle.
I never want him to settle.