My oldest son asked me the other day if he could have a few friends over for a wee party on the last day of school before the Christmas holidays.
Mom: Sure. What do you have in mind?
Gabriel: Just hang out for the evening and then some of the guys will stay overnight.
Mom: How many?
Mom (eyebrows raised): Six??
Gabriel: Well . . . six counting me. So five, actually.
Mom (calculating sleeping requirements for all those sprawling teenage bodies): Why so many?
Younger son chimes in: Oh, yeah. I’ll probably spend the night at ___’s place with my friends–if that’s okay–so there’ll be lots of room for all Gabriel’s friends.
Mom: Well. I’d like a little more information about your get-together, Jacob, and I’m fine with yours, Gabriel, but I won’t have time to cook breakfast for that crew. You’re in charge of feeding everyone the next day.
Gabriel: They won’t want anything. I’m the only one who eats breakfast.
Mom: They didn’t seem to mind the pancakes I cooked the last time you had friends over.
Gabriel (in that special tone reserved for mothers concerned with the social niceties who don’t have a clue about how things really work): Okay. I’ll make eggs or something.
He and Jacob exchange a ‘brothers only’ look.
Gabriel: It’s not like I’m going to have to actually cook anything anyway.
Gabriel: There won’t be anything left to cook. Or anyone to cook it for.
Jacob (coming to the rescue of his befuddled mother): The Mayan calendar, Mom? The end of the world? December 21st, remember?
Gabriel: Yeah. We figured if it was all going to end, we were going out together.
Mom: You don’t actually believe that stuff, do you?
Another brotherly look exchanged that eloquently sums up what pages of words could never adequately capture:
Their delight at messing with their mother.
Their delight in each other.
Their irreverent nose-thumbing at the fear-mongering surrounding them: Hey, if you adults are going to get all end-of-the-world on us, we’ll play along. Proceed to party!
The thin thread of underlying fear that in the off chance all that end-of-the world nonsense was true they were going to face it with the people they faced every other adult-controlled day with. The people they turned to whenever they didn’t understand what the world was throwing at them. The people who didn’t understand the crazy-making adult world any better than they did, who were just as confused as they were by the conflicting messages surrounding them. And therefore the only people who really ‘got’ them. Their friends.
And the bedrock understanding that, if the world was truly ending, they’d be facing it together, shoulder to wise-cracking shoulder, facing down all comers with all the inside jokes they could muster.
Brothers to the end.
Oh God, how I love these boys.