“Easy, easy there. Easy now, boy.” That’s what my grandfather apparently told the helicopter pilot that was showing him the sights during an agricultural fair decades ago. Maybe it wasn’t a helicopter, maybe it just a small plane, and the pilot was just trying to show Grampa his own house, but either way, the turn was a little too abrupt for Grampa’s taste so he let the pilot know that he did not approve.
As soon as he got his feet back on the ground, the story about Grampa calling the pilot a boy started to make rounds in the family. It wasn’t just that he had called him a boy, it was also the way he always used to say it, with a drawl that made his dialect so distinct.
Everybody younger than Grampa was always a boy, and he meant it in the most loving of ways.
I was a boy, for sure, but so were my father and my uncle.
And whenever a group of more than two of us, me and my cousins, or our parents, did something, we naturally became the boys to Grampa, and the plural sounded even better. He said it with pride. And it filled us with pride.
“What are you boys up to,” he’d ask us, and we’d smile. It was impossible not to.
Yes, we were the boys. And that made us men.
Last week, Son and I rode our bikes to downtown Stockholm, and at one point, as we were waiting for the lights to turn green, two teenaged kids came down the hill and with their brakes screeching, stopped next to us.
“Nice,” I said, mockingly admiring the long, black lines their bikes left on the asphalt. The kids didn’t say anything, and a few seconds later, we all rode along, and then went our separate ways on the other side of the street.
“Why did you say it was nice,” Son asked me a couple of minutes later.
“Because I thought they were a little reckless there, and I just wanted them to cool it. I figured they’d do it if an old man said something,” I said.
“You’re not an old man,” Son said.
“Well, older than them, in any case,” I said.
“Although, did you hear what they said?” Son asked me then.
“They said that they’d show the old man.”
“Really? That what they said?”
“Just kidding, Dad,” Son said.
“For sure,” he said quickly. Almost too quickly.
Son is nine, going on ten. I’ve called him ukkeli – Finnish for “old man” – all his life, to mean the exact opposite. That he’s my little guy.
He’s still a kid, but soon, he’ll be turning into a teenager, and then a man. He’s currently somewhere in-between, in a place where his inquisitive mind can go from Pokémon to global warming in a split second, and from making his own Harry Potter movies to thinking our house is the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry just as quickly.
Last night, Wife and I were on our bed, reading, when we heard steps coming from Son’s room. He went to the bathroom.
There was a silence, then the sound of the toilet seat going up, and then some other noises. The door was obviously wide open.
And then we heard a nine-year-old singing, with a voice that was so clear, and also full of emotion.
“Am I a maaaaaa-aaaaaaaan…,” he sang, and drowned out the other noises he was making in the bathroom.
Wife and I glanced at each other, smiling, because we knew what to expect next.
“… Or am I a muppeeeeeet,” Son went on, then whispering, “am I a muppet?”
He’s our muppet. A very manly muppet.