T2 was a mess. His hair was sticking straight up and he had resisted every effort to fix it, slapping away hands and ducking under brushes. He was wearing orange socks, blue shorts and a ratty old Frank Gore 49ers jersey that we really should throw away. He looked like a hobo.
T1 looked great. Because he is in the Naval Junior ROTC program at school he has to wear a uniform twice a week. I don’t know the classification, but it’s a full Navy uniform with the blue pants, black shoes, khaki shirt with his rank insignia, name badge and medals and his hat, which apparently we have to call a “cover.” While some of the other kids in the program look like little kids dressing up for Halloween in their uniforms, T1 looks like a man.
The ROTC program at his school is huge. It’s actually the biggest organization they have, bigger than the football team and bigger than the Spanish Club. There are more than 200 kids in it. We were unsure how T1 was going to like it but, in retrospect, shouldn’t have been. It sets out goal, provides a clear path for advancement and encourages competition. It’s tailor made for him and he really is enjoying it. He has been promoted, which I keep calling “leveling up” to annoy him, a few times already. The other day, on the way home, we had a long conversation about how he didn’t get a bonus participation ribbon because he was short one activity but how he had already signed up for some service activity and he so he would get it next time. He has an entire plan as to how he can advanced through the ranks as quickly as possible, with the ultimate goal to do so more quickly than the cadet who is currently in charge did. The program is largely run by the students with oversight from two Navy and one Marine officer. T1 doesn’t want to be the person in charge, he wants to be the second in command, or XO. Partly because the duties appeal to him and partly because everyone has to refer to the XO as “Master Chief” and that is undeniably badass. I am really pleased he is enjoying himself so much.
When I dropped him off at school he climbed out of the car, put on his cover and then leaned back in to grab his backpack. I saluted him and he almost saluted me back before he caught himself, gave me a smirk and waved.
When we arrived at T2’s bus stop I couldn’t help but notice everyone else was dressed really nice. I mean, compared to T2 Neanderthals trapped in a glacier for thousands of years, spit out by global warming and cataloged by graduate students would have looked down right sartorial, but everybody else looked REALLY good. R, our next door neighbor looked great in a blue and white checkered dress shirt that T2 had hand-me-downed him a few weeks before. M, the little Chinese kid from down the street had on a cardigan. T2 stood in the back of the line, idly making his hair even more of a birds nest.
I thought a moment.
“Its picture day, isn’t it?” I asked one of the moms standing there.
“Yes,” she said.
“T2,” I said, “you know its picture day, don’t you?”
“Oh!” he said, his eyebrows going up and his voice dripping with faux innocence. “Is it? Like, for the yearbook?”
Then he grinned the grin of a nine year old who at some point had launched a plan to look ridiculous in his yearbook photo and then executed that plan with Oceans 11 like efficiency.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “They can only see me from the chest up. That’s why I’m going to make this face…”
He jutted his lower jaw forward and bugged out his eyes.
The bus pulled up and he got on it.