Jamie introduced our boys to the empire that is the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) when Colin was about two years old. Jamie isn’t really a devotee, but when he realized the children didn’t know who Andre the Giant was, he recognized the opportunity for education.
One Easter we took the boys to “big church” in Albany. I was a little nervous. This wasn’t our little country church. It was a fancy church with real liturgical colors and banners and a big choir and microphones. The Easter prelude that morning began with the pipe organ’s deep, full-throated bellow of a long, triumphant chord. Colin, who was three, with wide, excited eyes loudly whispered, “MAMA! It’s the Undertaker! He’s here!!”
Totally unlike Jack, Colin is outgoing, less reserved. He likes engaging people. He is stubborn and hard to convince about much of anything. He is a boy in perpetual motion. When he gets still, he falls asleep. He has never wanted to sleep. He doesn’t want to miss anything.
He has always been strong. On his first day home from the hospital, I planned to read him Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, just like I had done with Jack on his first day home from the hospital. I settled us into the rocking chair and nestled Colin in my arms on top of a pillow positioned in my lap so I could hold both the book and the baby comfortably. He had long, skinny legs and knobby knees. He was all angles, wrapped in a blanket.
My Norman Rockwell moment lasted less than two minutes. I started reading, and Colin started kicking. Our positioning was so awkward, he managed to kick the book right out of my hand. I tried again. He kicked it to the ground again. I gave up and knew then he was going to walk to the beat of his own drum. And he does.
The one thing that impedes Colin is eczema. He was born with it, and even though we have been to multiple doctors and tried every cream, lotion, potion, and soap in the world, it is still an issue. It’s aggravated by heat, and south Georgia summers are the worst. He longs to play football and baseball but practices are outside. Once Colin gets hot, it takes a long time to cool off and the itching is nearly unbearable.
So, when the flyer came home from school a few weeks ago announcing an after-school wrestling practice in an air-conditioned gym, I knew Colin would want to participate. He is a physical little boy with excellent hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes. He’s built like his granddaddy Hoss: a brick house.
Wrestling is the perfect outlet for Colin. In addition to practice being inside, there are uniforms and special shoes. There are teammates his own age and size. According to Colin, the most exciting thing about wrestling is slamming someone on the ground without getting in trouble. I get it. I really do.
The Monday after Easter was Colin’s fourth wrestling practice, but my first time picking him up. Jamie was out of town on business, so I’d left work a little early so I could watch him do his thing for a little bit. The minute I walked into the gym, I spotted him.
He was mad. I could tell from the way he was holding his still little-boy hands in tightly clenched fists on either side of a body stiff with tension.
My Mama alarm went off as the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up. Adrenaline surged. I had an almost unstoppable urge to rush out onto the gym floor and ask what was wrong. But, I pushed it down and into the pit of my stomach. Slowly and watching every move he made, I sat down on the bleachers.
The children, all ages and shapes and sizes, were nearing the end of practice. Their coaches were on the periphery of the gym mats instructing them on how to do bear crawls from one end of the mats to the other. The children, almost all with hair stuck to their foreheads and red cheeks, were lined up in rows with ample distance between them. At the whistle, they took off on all fours crawling like bears down the mat.
Colin and another boy about his same height and weight were lined up to go in the third row. (For the purposes of this post, I will call this child Bo.) Colin looked square. His jaw was clenched. His shoulders were slightly hunched forward. His fists were still in tight balls, the knuckles red and white from his grip. Bo had similar posturing. They were hissing words at each other, but I couldn’t hear them from where I was sitting. The coaches were busy with the other children.
It was time for Colin’s row to crawl. He and Bo lined up beside each other and when the whistle blew, they scooted down the mat. Colin slightly in front. Bo, clearly not wanting Colin to beat him to the end of the mat, threw his hand out in front of his body and caught Colin’s ankle. Colin went down hard on his right knee. I stood up and sat right back down. “Wait a minute, Mama,” I thought to myself.
The fall gave Bo the advantage, and he scooted ahead. Not to be outdone, Colin grabbed the child’s ankle, too. They tripped each other all the way down one side of the mat and all the way back up the other side. The coaches didn’t notice.
When the exercise was over, the boys were all called into a huddle. Colin and Bo stood right next to each other. I watched Colin turn his face and jut his chin, red and sweaty, to jeer at Bo. Those light blue eyes, that have always reminded me of a south Georgia blue sky on a hot summer’s day, flashed white hot. I heard the coaches congratulate the guys on “working hard” and “being tough.