Normal “Assassins”

It’s perfectly normal to find a full fire extinguisher of water rolling around in the back of your car on your way to church, right? Well…even with a husband who is a professional firefighter, this is not exactly…normal.

But when your son, who is a Senior in high school, nearing the end of the school year, has been playing a game called “Assassins” the entire weekend, where the high school upper classmen have formed into teams to stalk each other around town, and spray each other with water guns, (and evidently, fire extinguishers filled with water)- it makes life interesting. And, in a weird way, yes, also normal.

Pre-Pandemic, I would have worried so much more about this, kids driving around in cars, getting out and battling with water-filled “materials” in neighborhoods and parking lots, though this is a long standing tradition apparently, and obviously everyone who played before has lived to tell about it. But, after the year we’ve had, my perspective is quite different. Far from worrying, I am relishing every moment of dare I say…normal teenage activities. I am literally pushing him out the door.

On a Friday afternoon, a car pulled into the driveway, and four boys piled out of it, as Joe ran double time down the stairs from his room, out of the house – all ready with his black bandanna and awkwardly carrying the extra large fire extinguisher, bestowed upon him with the blessings of his fireman father. I hear all the boys cheering and clapping: LET’S GO! YEAH JOE! They are laughing, carefree, and they all pile into the car and drive away.

I paused for a moment, looking out my office window. Because this is the first time I had seen that kind of activity in over A YEAR. High school kids, together, laughing, ready for an adventure without restrictions, or a shadow of worry. I joke all the time that I have to stop crying over these things, that I should have invested actual money in Kleenex, but evidently it’s not going to be this month. I smash the lump down in my throat as they drove off. Because all I can think is, Normalcy.

What a difference a year makes- last year at this time these same boys were doing drive by birthday celebrations, yelling at each other from cars in the street, staying 6 feet apart, and trying to figure out what activities they could do outside in the summer to spend time together. This included going to the extent of buying fishing licenses so they could go to a lake all afternoon and sit and talk with their fishing rods in the water. A year ago, J was struggling through the last weeks of his Junior year with remote high school; we were worried beyond belief over his mental health. I was crying, but for very different reasons.

We are now at that point, after graduation, where he has one foot out the door, but is trying to be respectful of our feelings, still, we know it’s coming. He’ll be gone soon. A new normal.

Fast forward to later the same Friday night, when I awake from a fitful dozing sleep to hear him padding up the stairs after midnight. I get up out of instinct, and he greets me in the hallway.

MOM. IT WAS AWESOME. WE HAD AN EPIC BATTLE. I HAD SO MUCH FUN!!

He goes into enthusiastic detail about diving into bushes, hiding behind cars, and leaping and running across lawns. I blearily smile with relief and offer mumbled, possibly incoherent but heartfelt words of congratulations, and ask if he’s still in the game. He is. Hey, I thought you were staying over at A’s house, I say. I decided to come home, he responds. Good. Get some rest.

I climb back into bed, and two minutes later, he knocks on my bedroom door and enters, waving a Nestle Crunch bar. Hey, I got this for you when we stopped at Wawa. I admit, I had to suppress a little snort laugh. It was 12:30 at night, did he think I was going to eat it right then? But I was also overwhelmed with how thoughtful it was. Thanks, I said. Good night mom. He answered. Normalcy.

So the next morning, when I get in the car to drive to church, the dang fire extinguisher is clanging and rolling around the back seat. But rather than be annoyed that he left it there and didn’t think to take it out when he got home the night before, I smile with relief (and yes, a few tears), because in this weird way, it is actually a piece of normalcy. Sigh. {Sob}.

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