It was about midday on a Sunday when I heard the door of Favourite Son’s “boy cave” open. I call it “boy cave” because:
- He seems to have been hibernating in there for the last several months.
- I wouldn’t venture in there alone – at least not without survival equipment and a plan of how to retreat.
Mr M. and I were making lunch as Favourite Son (FS) slouched into the kitchen. Greeted by the now familiar grunt that had come to represent “Hi, how’s it going?”, we smiled at him and, without another word passing between us, FS and I began our ritualistic kitchen dance. We’d rehearsed it many times before and by now it was an almost up-beat allegro.
He opens the cupboard door and removes a bowl, placing it on the worktop as he backspins towards a second cupboard (home to several varieties of cereal, none of which contain enough sugar, apparently), and I glide over to close the first cupboard door.
He turns back towards the expecting bowl, filling to at least double its actual capacity, being sure to leave some cereal on the worktop, should a family of Borrowers move in (I raised a kind and thoughtful boy you see).
I swish round, scooping up the cereal box, sashay to the second open cupboard, returning the box to its familiar slot, and close the second cupboard door. He shimmies to the fridge, grabbing, then swinging a bottle of milk, as if it were a hammer, before popping open the lid and sloshing half the contents into the already bulging bowl.
For his finishing move, he slams the bottle of milk on the worktop, ensuring a few drops join the aforementioned cereal. I pirouette in, grab the milk, returning it to the fridge and close the door – our dance is done.
As we moved around the room in silence I ponder: would I, could I, should I speak? These are difficult questions when asked in relation to a 14-year-old boy. I felt brave, but I had to ask just the right question, in just the right tone – nothing too prying or ‘parent-y’.
“So…what’s been happening with you recently?”
I didn’t make eye contact in an attempt to match my body language with the nonchalance of my tone. I waited, he chewed. Was he considering his response, or just going to ignore me altogether?
“A few of my pals are grafting,” he reluctantly volunteered.
Result! Now, where do I go with this information?
Before I have a chance to respond, Mr M. interjects. Clearly this is a topic of conversation that is of interest to him.
“That’s great. Good for them,” Mr M. approved.
“Yeah, suppose so.” Still no eye contact with either of us.
“Are they having to travel far from home?” asks Mr M.
“Gala, Hawick, Kelso, wherever.”
“Really!”, Mr. M said.