The summer solstice fell on Tuesday, marking the first day of summer. In keeping with our solstice tradition – really, just our Tuesday-Thursday tradition – I drove the Gort and the Hen to the suburbs for yet another U8 game on a soggy field. In the company of an army of solstice-loving mosquitoes.
We assumed our respective positions. I, standing on the side of the field, chatting with a perpetually swivelling head to ascertain the boys’ positions. The Hen, hanging on the sidelines. Alternating between kicking the ball, checking out the bleachers and hiding within the giant mound of shrubs. And the Gort, on the soccer fields. Vacillating between a state of vague-focus and distraction. Doing his best to interpret his coach’s drill instructions before succumbing to alleged thirst or the onslaught of mosquitoes.
Or concern for his eyes.
He ran off the field during a drill for a purported water break, but huddled next to my orange purse instead. Earnestly reading the label on the bottle of bug spray.
Earlier, as we prepared to leave the house, the Gort had reminded me that we needed bug spray. ‘It’s in the car,’ I assured him. But he wasn’t convinced, so he ran to the bathroom and retrieved another bottle of spray from the cabinet.
He stood outside the car-van and tried to decipher the complexity that is the spray-nozzle. ‘I’ll help you with that,’ I offered. But he had encephalitis on his mind; convinced that nothing but immediate Off application would save him. Which, of course, resulted in an errant stream of Deet-infused spray.
‘I think I got some bug spray in my eyes,’ he announced. I gathered from the lack of panic in his voice, that the spray had been diverted from his retinas by his overly-responsive eyelids.
‘Well, that’s why you have to be careful,’ I explained. ‘The spray is kind of like poison – it hurts the bugs, but you don’t want to use too much of it. Or get it in your eyes.’
And so, he spent the entire fifteen minute ride to the soccer fields, studying the bottle. ‘What does irate mean,’ he called from the back.
‘You mean irritate?’
‘It means, if that stuff gets in your eyes, it might hurt and your eyes might turn red,’ I flew by the seat of my pants.
This was of great concern to him. ‘Are my eyes red?’ he demanded from the back. As if I could see….in the rearview mirror….whether his eyes had a reddish tinge, or not.
‘I can’t see, why don’t you ask Henners.’
‘Henners, are my eyes red?’
The Hen dutifully turned around in his booster seat to glance at his older brother’s eyes.
‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘Are they red now?’
He persisted despite our assurances.
‘If your eyes aren’t bothering you yet, they probably aren’t going to,’ I tried to tell him. ‘You probably just got some spray on your eyelids but not in your eyes.’ I tried again a few minutes later.
I assumed he’d dropped the matter by the time we got to the fields, but when I saw him squatting beside my purse, staring at the bottle, I knew he hadn’t forgotten about his ‘irate’ eyes.
‘Gaga, it’s okay, don’t worry about it,’ I directed him back to the field where his team-mates were practicing their passes.
Eventually the drills ended and the four-on-four game began. I chatted. Checked on the Hen. Glanced at the game. Chatted. Checked on the Hen. Glanced at the game.
Perhaps because the sun was at its highest point in the sky, I was fortunate enough to glance at the game precisely when the Gort’s foot touched the ball near the goal. And [tentatively] kicked it through the orange cones.
‘I think I know why I got a goal today,’ the Gort announced when we were firmly ensconced in the car-van. ‘Oh yeah, why?’ I had to know.
‘Because I saved up all my energy, and I ate really good food,’ he explained. I didn’t know one could ‘save energy’, but perhaps my protein-laden dinner of feta burger and asparagus-potato omelette had contributed to his on-field success. Or maybe it was the sun. Or the bug spray.
‘Tonight, I’m going to get lots of sleep, and then I’m going to eat really good food tomorrow, and after school, I’m going to ex-ter-size,’ he vowed.
Future Tony Horton?