I lead a reading group at a local middle school. We meet every Tuesday at lunch, or any Tuesday that the students feel like it. Sometimes it’s just one student and I, perusing the young adults section, comparing dystopian novels.
We tried to read My Side of the Mountain last semester. A story about a boy striking out on his own, befriending a weasel, living inside a tree and killing deer with huge rocks seemed like an easy win. Only one boy finished the book, and that boy wasn’t even me.
This semester, I wanted to aim for something easier (for me). But only two of the five students showed up for our meeting on Tuesday. I couldn’t even predict if there would be a reading group on future Tuesdays. Even I wanted to go play tetherball.
As we talked about meaningless anecdotes, sharing about our Christmas presents and favorite fake animals, I checked my watch, wondering where the other students were. I was bored. In an off-hand comment, I asked one student, Adam, what his favorite television show was.
Adam was the new kid in school when I started my group. He wears glasses, doesn’t exactly like sports, and is the only person at the table who actually wanted to talk about My Side of the Mountain (he finished it). He is too sweet for middle school.
In response to my question, he said, “Probably Chicago Fire.” Oh, I’ve seen that, I said. Instantly, Adam changed. His eyes widened. He began to bounce in his seat. “REALLY? What was the last thing you remember?” Um – I’m not sure. I think a mean lady was trying to shut down the fire house. “Oh boy, oh boy, you’re three episodes behind! So much has happened! Can I tell you – PLEASE?”
I nodded yes, and he proceeded to unload in a manner I had never seen from him, even when discussing how to make acorn pancakes. “Shea left! And Dawson is in fire school now. Oh, and Miles – Miles got promoted to truck squad!”
Adam watches Chicago Fire every Tuesday with his grandfather.
Afterward, I walked Adam back to his class. He asked more Chicago Fire-centric questions, and I had to confess. “I watch the show with my wife,” I said. “She’s the one who really likes it.”
My wife Holly is Adam’s P.E. coach. “Oh, Coach Trumbo, you mean?” he asked, then suddenly he began slapping his forehead. “Oh, Adam, you shouldn’t have said that!” he mumbled. “Nosy, nosy, nosy!”
Adam, what’s wrong?
“I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t pry into your business like that, I always do that, Adam how could you be so nosy!”
As I tried to comfort him, assure him that his question was well within social boundaries, I realized that he was a thirty year old man stuck in a twelve year old’s body.