On June 3rd, Nate noted that he was celebrating the tenth anniversary of his “End of the Year Party.” When third grade was ending, he said to us that he wanted to have a party for all the kids in Mrs. Lathrop’s class. At least that’s what is written in Karen’s note that introduces the photo album of the event. I can’t recall how he would’ve asked for that.
Nate carries some photo albums around as security blankets, and thumbs through others. I believe he pores through old pictures as a way to get further in touch with his past. He talks now about a childhood that he couldn’t comment on at the time.
As I look at the pictures of classmates hopping up and down in the inflatable bounce house (including James of Nate’s essay), it’s clear that Nate was apart from the festivities. The kids are having fun, and the food was all Nate-chosen. Cans of sodas, cupcakes shaped like hamburgers and hot dogs, to name but a few, There was face-painting, volleyball, lots of interactivity. But not for Nate. He walks alone in one photo, is nowhere to be seen in most.
Yet, there are some pictures that, if I strain my imagination just a bit, look as if Nate is really with his friends. In one photo he is looking towards a young boy. In another he seems to be in deep conversation with James. It’s a look into what might have been, and, it gives me great comfort to see him in that light, as a “normal” 10-year-old hanging out with his pals.
But it’s not true and I know it. The last picture in the book is Nate at the kitchen table eating pizza, his right thumb pointing up at a slight angle, his head turned away from the camera. That was the real Nate and, in many ways, still is. And it’s fine. Nate is a great kid, fun to be around, much more involved with people than ever before. But I admit that when a stray photo makes it look as if he fits in completely, it makes me very happy.