We are at the life stage where the boys come home late at night after a shift at work or a musical theater rehearsal, and then they scrounge the cupboards for evening snacks like Ramen or quesadillas. There is much talk most mornings about the rogue dishes that show up long after the kitchen is closed for the night.
One young man has rehearsal four nights a week, and his perpetual playlists carry a strong ukulele theme. The other young man is wearing a new jacket, Chick-fil-A red, with his name inscribed on the front pocket. They have each grown right before my eyes, in every single way.
Tyler was standing at the counter, eating Chef Boyardee ravioli. Tuck had so much to tell me, and he paced in the kitchen, talking with end-of-day energy, and zipping and unzipping his jacket that he wasn't quite ready to take off.
It wasn't cold in the kitchen. But you know how it is with a new jacket.
He said, "I've been talking to a girl."
"Oh yeah?" I say, casually, like you do.
"But I won't be talking to her anymore because I've discovered she's asking out other guys. And really, talking to her feels like talking to a brick wall. In fact, I think a brick wall would be more conversational."
He kept pacing, talking about milkshakes and whipped cream mishaps, about the to-go window and a mistake with straws.
And then his phone rang in the pocket of his jacket. He raced up the stairs and disappeared into his room, returning a half-hour later, now in shorts and a t-shirt after having abandoned the jacket, his phone in his hand.
"That was the Brick Wall," he said, "giving me just enough hope to bring me back into the conversation."
He joined Tyler at the kitchen counter, and he said, "I know that hope will come crashing down in a few days when the brick wall goes up again, but for now, the hope feels good so just let me enjoy this for a few minutes."
They raise their glasses to each other, cheers to the madness of it all, their 14- and 16-year-old lives.
And I stick around in the kitchen to catch the nuggets of gold that only seem to glitter in these late hours, when these young men stand at my counter and eat my food and talk about girls and jobs.
And I feel the magic of noticing the happiness,
in the actual moment I'm feeling it.