Following Jacob’s meltdown at breakfast and my talk with him afterwards, me and the boys spent the afternoon like any Monday afternoon since I started coming over, except I didn’t look at my watch. Me and Jacob had a great time figuring out the pitching machine, and Matteo’s even stopped asking when our time together is going to be over.
Just as I was finishing up with Matteo, Sandy came outside and told me that Maya wanted to see me in her office. Ok, so it totally felt like I was being called to the principal’s office this time. I guessed she heard about the morning and, I hoped, just wanted to know my part of the story. I hoped she wasn’t mad and that I didn’t overstep when I had my talk with Jacob.
“Come in, Hunter,” she said when I got to her door. I went in, sat in the chair where you can see yourself in the mirror, and tried to be at my ease. I really was nervous. And, of course, there was Maya’s perfume that wasn’t making things easier for me. “I understand there was a…situation with Jacob this morning.”
“Yes,” I kinda stammered. “How much have you heard about it?”
“Not much,” Maya said. “Belen told me that he broke his plate at breakfast and went running from the kitchen and that you followed him upstairs. Dr. Peterson didn’t have anything to add.”
“No,” I said, “he came in after the excitement was over. Did you talk to Matteo? He knew more about it than any of us.”
“I haven’t seen him yet, no. I wanted to get your take on the story, since you seem to have been the first responder.”
I wanted to ask if that was a good thing real badly.
“I reckon it’s pretty simple: I went upstairs and had a talk with Jacob. He’s real upset about not being in school and not seeing his friends and not being able to play sports. It’s rough on a kid, living in isolation like they’re all doing these days, not just Jacob.” I thought about Cody and Noah, although, as far as I knew, they weren’t as upset as Jacob was this morning. But I see a lot less of Cody and Noah than I do of Jacob and Matteo.
“I see,” said Maya. She shook her head. “That’s not good news. I’m sure you understand all I want to do is protect them – to protect all of us – from COVID. You may not know this, but Robert is diabetic, so he’s at extra risk, and my mother is over 75, so she’s at extra risk. And I don’t care what the science says, it makes all the sense in the world for kids to be at extra risk as well with their immune systems that are still developing.”
I didn’t want to get into an argument with my boss and landlord, so I let that ride, even if it was the opposite of what both me and Jacob heard on the news. I don’t know why the virus affects kids less than it does adults, but I’m only a dumb jock, so what do I know?
“I think…,” I started. Then I stopped. Then I smiled and asked: “permission to speak frankly?”
“Of course,” said Maya. “You know more about this than any of us.”
“I just think that Jacob really misses his friends. He said he’s afraid that he and his friends are growing apart. I know he’s got Matteo, but they’re not the same age and they’re so different. Jacob would be happier if he could just play sports again. Even with the pitching machine and all the good will in the world, I’m not a substitute for a real baseball game.”
“I can see that,” Maya said. “Correct me if I’m wrong, though, but it’s not as though there are baseball games around that Jacob could be playing in.”
“No,” I said, “you’re right. There’s just no sports at all…at least here in California…and it sucks. I’d have gone crazy if I couldn’t have played baseball – or any sports – for a whole year. I used to go crazy if I was getting punished and didn’t get to play for a week. I understand about the virus and everything, but this really isn’t fair to the kids. And – I didn’t tell Jacob this – but I don’t see an end in sight. Even if we get rid of the governor.” Then I thought I put my foot in my mouth; I didn’t know how libertarians felt about recalling Governor Newsom.
“Don’t worry,” said Maya, I reckon sensing my discomfort, “Robert and I signed the recall petition. We’re all for protecting people from the virus, but these lockdowns are seriously interfering with our civil liberties.” She paused. “So what do you think we should do about Jacob?”
I really didn’t want to start giving parenting advice to anyone…least of all my boss and landlord. But I did have an idea or two earlier in the day when I was talking to Jacob, so I decided to pass them along to Maya to see what she thought of them.
“I’m not a child psychologist,” I said, “but I did have a couple of ideas.”
“Let me hear them.”
“The first may sound funny…but Jacob’s gonna teach me to play tennis.”
“You don’t know how?”
I wasn’t going to explain that, back home, we thought of tennis as a rich kid’s sport (which I still think it is.) I was also more into team sports, and the last thing Mom wanted was for me to get involved in another sport.
“No. I thought it might maybe be good for Jacob to be the teacher instead of the student. Is he any good at it?”
“He had a tennis teacher for a few years. We thought he could play with Matteo, but Matteo had no interest in it whatsoever. We stopped having the teacher come over when COVID hit. Would you like us to get her back and teach the both of you?”
That sounded kinda interesting, but I also was liking the idea of having Jacob be the teacher. I said as much to Maya.
“My other idea,” I continued, “and I hope this is okay with y’all, was for me and Jacob – for me and the boys, really – to come up with an idea for a segment on the show. I don’t know, but Ethan’s probably getting tired of filming me getting out of the pool” I tried to laugh at that one “and maybe there’s something that we could do that would be interesting to viewers.”
“I don’t know,” I said, honestly. I only had the idea a few hours previously. “But I think the boys should come up with it more than me. I don’t even have to be in it. It will give them a project, though…and I think that’s one thing that they need badly.”
“Sounds good to me,” Maya said. “Come up with your idea and you can pitch it to me, Robert and Jean-Francois, like we do with any other idea. Ask Sandy how to do it, she’ll know. Good idea, Hunter.”
I think Maya’s given up on my calling her by her first name, even if it’s what everyone else does. She hasn’t corrected me on saying ‘ma’am’ since mid-December.
“I’m sorry you had to get in the middle of Jacob’s tantrum. But thanks for helping out. I’ll talk to Jacob tonight and see if I can’t find out anything else. Let’s keep each other posted…I know how much you care about the boys.”
“Thanks.” I do care about the boys, but it was good to hear it coming from Maya.
With that I got up and couldn’t help but check myself out in the mirror.
“I do that every time I walk by that mirror too,” Maya said, catching me in the act. “Occupational hazard, I guess.”
I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, so I just thanked Maya again and went back to the pool house to shower and get ready for dinner.