Today was the start of a new year for some of us. (L'shana tovah, my Jewish friends!) For Benjy and me this beginning was bittersweet. Actually, for Ben it was just bitter.
This past weekend Benjy may have lost his oldest friend -- a true, close, trustworthy, safe buddy. A boy who just "got" him, accepted him for who he was. This boy happens to be the son of my best friend -- convenient, no? -- and as different as he is from my son (more on this in a bit), for years the two of them really connected.
When Benjy decided he wanted to sign up for town soccer a year or so ago, and M--, who is a MAJOR athlete, came to see his first game, and Ben (of course) had no idea how to play soccer and was belittled and rejected by all the other kids, M-- said all the right things. No matter that Ben rushed into the car after the game and screamed and sobbed and tore his hair and banged his head against the car window.
"I'm not very good at soccer either," M-- said. "And you were pretty good for your first time."
His very presence has always helped to regulate Ben, and his admiration for Ben's intelligence gave this boy who values athletic prowess above any other accomplishment, simply because that's what his peers value and he does not have it, a real lift.
Multiply these positives by orders of magnitude and you have a glimpse into the friendship of Benjy and M--.
HOWEVER. M-- is in middle school now. And when Ben and I were visiting M-- and his mom this weekend, it seemed pretty clear to me that M--, in typical middle-school fashion, has noted the social inequalities between himself and his awkward and klutzy friend (throw in some serious ticcing for good measure) and has made a calculated decision to bail.
The problem started with the arrival of another boy. My friend had decided to invite another friend to the house but had neglected to let me know this, so I could alert Ben.
Now, a sped mom would never cavalierly invite another kid into the mix -- especially a tall, handsome, athletic one (this guy happens to be on M--'s hockey team).
Ouch! Double ouch! I bet you know where this is headed.
And not only could I do nothing about it, but I couldn't even take Ben back to Boston (M-- lives in Connecticut, and as it would soon be twilight and I cannot see in the dark, we were stuck.
I let my friend know I was displeased. Because she is my bestie she took it like a man.
The tall-handsome-hockeydude left around dinnertime. And for a while I thought the few hours of rejection and neglect were just a blip. An anomaly. They boys lay side by side in M--'s bed (yes, they are not quite adolescent, and there was no one except my friend and me to see it) and watched Youtube videos. The image of best buddies.
So I was gobsmacked the next day when M-- was downright mean to Ben, rejecting him again and again, declining the gift of a plant for his fishtank Ben offered him (I'd felt so sorry for Ben I'd taken him to Petco for fish supplies) with a surly "NO." When Benjy mentioned feeling stressed, M--retorted "What do YOU have to be stressed about? All YOU do is sit in front of the computer."
(This in spite of the fact that Ben had spent much of the previous day helping a friend of the family construct a zipline for M-- in the backyard.)
Mean. It brings tears to my eyes to write this.
Somehow I think it's real this time. There've been squabbles before, flashes of rudeness or annoyance on both sides. But this time M-- would not even look at Ben when he took him down. It was as sincere a rejection as I've seen.
So this new year is starting a bit sadly for the Delaunays. It's hard to imagine it might be a year without M--'s toothy smiles in it. Thank goodness my friendship with his mom is secure; losing her would kill me. I think I know how Benjy is feeling, and it's NOT GOOD.
Going to Connecticut without Ben in tow will be strange indeed. I hope I read the whole thing wrong, and M-- was simply grumpy, tired, pissed off at his mom or his dad or the wide world.
Maybe he'll come to Boston soon to collect on the birthday present we owe him. I was looking forward to taking the boys to an archery range, followed by lunch at Burger King.
Happy New Year, my sweet Benjy. I truly hope the year brings you happiness, peace, and great friendship.