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Posts Tagged ‘Joe’

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wish Maker

My husband Allen is a lot of things. He’s loving, smart, attentive, trustworthy, well-read, laid-back. He pays attention to the kids’ and my interests. He makes us feel special. It isn’t uncommon for him to come home and exclaim, “Hey (fill in the blank), I have a surprise for you!” That surprise could be ACDC tickets for Jack, the new Patty Griffin or Lucinda Williams or Todd Snider CD for me, or Washington Capitals tickets for Joe.

Every once in awhile, the surprise elevates Allen from awesome dad to wish maker.

That’s what happened yesterday.

Our son Joe is a sports-obsessed eight year-old. Among his favorites is ice hockey. Joe loves the Washington Capitals, especially Alexander Ovechkin. He watches every game, thanks to DVR technology, at least twice. Nearly every day when Joe gets home from school, in a search for his homework in his backpack, I find notes written in thick red marker all capitalized, “Let’s go Caps. Caps Rock! Alex the Gr8!” Joe especially loves what Ovechkin does whenever he scores a goal, which is Joe-pleasingly often. He kisses his hand and sends it up heavenward to his older brother Sergei. “I’m going to do that when I’m a famous baseball player one day,” Joe confided to me. “I’m going to kiss my hand and send it up to Henry.”

Joe really, really, really wants to meet Alex Ovechkin. He goes early to the game in the hopes that he can get a puck from Ovechkin before the game starts. He went to Capitals Convention (a.k.a. heaven for Caps fans) last year and searched everywhere for his hero. Joe keeps a lookout for Ovechkin’s totally awesome car whenever we drive by his house on our way to our friends Bill and Cristina’s house.

On Friday, we went to the Caps game where we witnessed their ninth-straight victory, making it their second longest streak in franchise history. When we got home, Allen said, “Hey Joe, I have a surprise for you! You gotta trust me on this. It’s gonna be great.” Despite a continuous request for more information, Allen refused to divulge the secret.

Cars were skidding across the road into ditches as Allen, Joe and I made our way down Georgetown Pike to Dulles Town Center yesterday as the 6th inch of snow that day fell on and around us. We were undeterred. “Where are we going?” Joe asked. “I don’t know,” Allen and I answered in synch. “I bet it has to do with hockey,” hoped Joe.

We walked into the mall. All around with jersey-wearing fans. Joe’s face broke out into a smile as he spotted Ovechkin’s father who he recognized from all the games. “Dad, let’s go meet him,” said Joe.

Ten minutes later they returned. “We’re friends with him now,” Joe explained. “He touched my muscles and told me to eat and get strong.”

Two complaint-free hours later, Joe shook hands with his hero, just like Henry had with Cal Ripken 10 years earlier.

“That was the best surprise ever,” Joe confirmed as we headed back home to watch Friday night’s game yet again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Learning to Read

Like a lot of kids in preschool, my son Joe’s bedtime ritual included reading. Unlike lots of kids his age, Joe only wanted to read the stats on baseball cards. In the beginning, I would read them to him. As time went on and he mastered numbers, I would read the category, RBI or Runs Batted In for example, and Joe would read the associated number. He especially liked reading the number of hits by stars of the New York Yankees, especially Derek Jeter’s 206 hits in 2007.

Every once in awhile I would suggest that we add – not substitute, mind you -  a Dr. Seuss book or a classic like Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are to our routine, but Joe wanted none of it. He was all baseball, all the time.

By the time Joe got to kindergarten, he was willing to mix it up a bit. He added entire books with player stats and even a few that featured the bios of the greatest-yet baseball and hockey players. I would read the words; he’d cover all the numbers. He was really good at reading numbers.

A couple of years went by and Joe advanced to the second grade where he is now perfecting his reading and math skills. Through the grapevine he learned about the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Earlier this fall, Joe wandered into Jack’s room – a dreamy, yet forbidden den of books on science and rock and roll; with some cool guitars, a computer, and the allure of everything older brother. He grabbed the Wimpy Kids books off Jack’s shelf and made it out before being discovered and banished, not for the first time. That night, Joe and I lay in his bed and switched off reading paragraphs. My boy could read. He could also count the number of letters in all the big words he read.

One day in the fall of 2009, Joe picked up a draft of Saving Henry. I was working on my final edits. As you will see when you read the book, each chapter starts with a list of some of Henry’s favorite things. Joe sat on the couch reading and turning pages. “Mom,” he said, “Where am I?” Joe was just one when Henry died so his birth comes near the end of the book. “Keep looking,” I responded knowingly. The list that precedes Chapter 16 begins with “Making Funny Faces at Joe.” When Joe was a baby, Henry loved holding him and making him laugh. Henry discovered quickly that the best and fastest route to a string of happiness-producing giggles was by scrunching up his nose, wiggling his lips, and sticking out his tongue. Henry used to do it over and over again to Joe’s delight.

“I want it to just say Joe,” Joe said. “One of the lists just says Jack.”

“He loved you so much, Joe,” I clarified. “If you want, I would be happy to change it to just say “Joe.” In my writing, I had thought that “Making Funny Faces at Joe” and just “Joe” were the same thing as they exemplified a single source of true love for his oldest brother.

“Don’t change it mom,” Joe clarified. “Just add another one that says Joe. Because he loved me and he loved making funny faces at me.”

Now that was a good – and very important – catch by my youngest editor.