One of the funny things about kids is that they'll give you perspective. Before Jake was driving much, I'd hear the loud hip hop jamming base through my skin from a car two lanes over and I'd wonder what on earth that kid was thinking with all that base... so much base, he couldn't possibly hear the music. People around here would get all up in arms over the lyrics, and I'd think hmph, what difference does it make, they never hear the lyrics anyway. Then Jake worked through the summer and a little over Christmas and saved and saved and finally had enough money to buy some big speakers. Then he worked and worked and worked more and traded in those speakers for a really huge single speaker, the kind which will blow your veins clean out your body without even bothering to ask permission. You've got blockage? Sit in Jake's truck. It will shake it loose.
It was a complete mystery to me why on earth a child thought he had to have speakers like that, but then the more I saw of him take pride in how he had designed his set up, how he excelled at something (and design / arrangement of the speakers in the car have a lot to do with the quality and quantity of sound)... I started understanding. Here was a kid who was transferred from a not-so-racially mixed school into one where it was heavily mixed, and he had a way of fitting in, of excelling that gained a lot of respect from eveyone around. I always wanted the kids to grow up having a lot of friends of whatever color happened to be around, and we picked the neighborhood where we live in great part to the racial diversity, but his school (the one he attended when we first lived here) wasn't all that mixed. I worried about that, but at the same time, that school was (supposedly) one with higher academic scores. We hit a point with that school where the stick up their collective asses grew to be more than I could stand or subject Jake to, and the school we transferred him into was heavily racially mixed and I suddenly wondered, would my kid be scared? Be intimidated? Be left out all of his senior year? Not make friends?
I asked him one day after he'd been there a little while just how he was doing... did he have anyone at all to hang with. He laughed. Turns out, he was having a great time. The kids were "cool" he said, they were into hip hop and music and many of them competed (two groups from that school have actually cut records that are getting play here). They didn't let the junkies hang out with them, and they all had each others' backs. They also liked Jake a lot. He had this ability to dog down anyone as good as he got -- they'd sit around trading smart-ass insults and Jake always got laughs. He knew the dances they did (and was one of the only white kids who did).
Well, Thursday night there was a speaker contest at a local car detailing type of business (where even the owner, an old white guy, was competing against the kids). Jake hadn't planned on going, but one of his friends was there and called him up, insisting he get there fast. He did and he said a lot of the guys who saw him pull up just hung their heads. He ended up winning and several of them did the "I bow before your greatness" wave to him as he was leaving. In between, they all hung out (with the owner) and cut up and had fun. (There were enough adults there for supervision.) On another occasion, he was competing and someone got really angry because Jake was beating him, and apparently came up to Jake and threatened him. One of Jake's new black friends stepped up and the other guy said, "What? You gonna stop me from kicking his ass?" And the friend looked around the group, where there were about ten black guys and five white guys and he started counting them all. He got to fifteen, counting himself, turned to the guy and said, "Well, you touch Jake, you got to deal with the rest of us." The guy left. (Jake found out later, he'd had a gun.)
The majority of them are going to college in the fall, some at LSU, some at BRCC (the local community college, very nice) and others in states far away. I'm glad he's got his friends to hang with this summer (in his off hours from work), and has a chance to do those testosterone boy things they all have to do at that age. I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that the "not drinking, no drugs" culture hangs tough as more and more people around them will succumb. I'm pretty vigilant about that, and so far, so good.
There's this moment when you realize that your kid has got that something that you'd always hoped for -- friends who are cool and who'll have his back, and a great diversity so that he fits in wherever he is. So now, whenever I hear that pressurized boom boom boom coming from another car, I think about that kid just trying to prove himself, just trying to find a way to fit into his culture and make a little mark on the world. Maybe he wasn't a straight-A student... maybe he had a hard time. But he's not necessarily trying to drive everyone around him buggy... he's just trying to be.Posted by toni at July 19, 2004 08:36 PM