My children attend public middle and high school; hence the school year always begins with the ritual of the sports physical. There’s a clinic at the orthopedic surgeon’s office: five doctors, three hundred students, all in a line waiting to have their nuts grabbed and their eyes checked.
At the end of the summer, the teenagers are well tanned, their skin darkened, hair bleached out so they resemble palominos, particularly the long-legged girls in small shorts. Their straight blond manes ruffle when people walk past. And the boys talk with a confidence and cadence I recognize from when I was in school, twenty years ago now.
Small-town boys have an easy banter. They insult each other, hug each other, yell threats across the room, and for some reason, the girls link arms and answer. They walk over to the group in pairs and say, “What are you yelling about?” scolding and flirting at the same time.
We mothers sit around the edge of the room, mostly silent, though occasionally I want to say to someone, “It stinks to wilt while they bloom, doesn’t it?”