During the East's recent heat spell, I decided to take the kids to the beach. I haven't done this since my middle guy, Philip, became a full blown teenager. My nine year old eagerly helped pack the car, organized the towels, and was twitchy with excitement. My 16 year old looked at me when I announced we were going to the beach. "With you?" he asked.
I wasn't sure if Philip's response would prove eager or sullen.
"I can't leave right now," he told me.
"You're busy?" (he had spent the morning in only two pursuits: heating and eating frozen
pretzels and tormenting the cats with a laser pointer)
"No, I just found the best website of my life."
Thinking the parental controls hadn't filtered what a teenage boy might seek, I sprinted to his room. He was, as usual, on the phone. He and a friend were clicking through a website that depicted adult twins attached at the head, folks with tumors hanging off them like giant squids, women with full, dark beards, people born with a "vanishing twin" that hadn't quite vanished and now draped limbs (and only limbs) from the twin host's chest.
"I have to see this, Mom. It's amazing. Then we'll leave, okay?"
I endured two minutes of medical nightmare, and then, almost smiling, he looked at me. "Wasn't that awesome?"
I nodded and handed him his bathing suit. He was, I reasoned, still a kid. Philip took the suit, and looked at me, his face suddenly clouding.
"Wait. Are you going to wear a bathing suit?"
"Nope." He smiled, this time a full smile of relief.
"This time, I'm going all natural at the beach."
It's hard to find words for the sound that emerged from Philip at that moment; his sister described it as "a big animal roaring inside a tornado."