“I’m supposed to wear red, white and blue!” The voice called downstairs with a bit more angst than usual. It was morning, and not everyone was yet sharing the idea that a new day is a gift. I’d been briefed the day before about the school celebrating Flag Day, so I put down my coffee and headed upstairs.
I don’t normally get involved with clothes selection, but as I reached the first step, it struck me – today might be the day.
It all started just before Thanksgiving, the previous year. While my Christmas shopping begins and ends on Christmas Eve, my wife thinks gifts are best purchased well in advance. My phone rang, and she asked me what player on the Patriots should be on my son’s jersey.
I’m sure all dads go through it. The comment whispered under your child’s breath, in this case, after another painful loss: “Why can’t I root for the Patriots?” Edison’s son probably said: “Westinghouse’s bulb is brighter” or Washington’s: “Maybe we’d be better off with a king.” It stings for a moment, then you realize it’s part of being father and son.
But my wife hadn’t been clued in. The jab had taken on a life of its own, now morphing into something unrecognizable. I went along, and suggested “B … Brady,” the word not properly forming on my lips.
Christmas came, and a gift that in Boston would have been held aloft got a quick “thanks” and went back in the box, the kind of treatment reserved for socks, or something knitted. I told my son it was nice of his mom, but he was back in the fold, and the Patriots jersey didn’t fit the family celebration.
The gift went into the closet, unlike the signed Miller and Vanek jerseys that hold a rightful spot in his bedroom. They may not be confused with a championship player like Brady, but they’re the guys we pull for.
Mom found a blue shirt with a red swoosh that Tiger Woods gets paid to wear, but I had another idea. I went to the closet and pulled the Brady jersey off its hanger, its first movement in six months, and removed the tags. We were far from football season and it is, after all, red, white and blue. My son spotted it and said, “Do you think?”
He put on the jersey with an appropriate dose of “this is not right, but I’ll do it for Flag Day.” As the 12 passed over his head, my mind flipped through the AFC East rival quarterbacks since I was his age: Bledsoe, Eason, Grogan and Plunkett.
My revery put me in a place where I caught a glimpse of my grandfather, shaking his head in disbelief the way he would when a ball in the pocket left him with a 7–10 split, viewing from a better place his great-grandson wearing the enemy colors.
That evening, my son, jerseyless, followed me as I took the dog outside. We walked around the corner and past the tree that just a few days before had a family of starlings leaving the nest. A neighbor had mentioned what a mess the birds had made, with the underlying message that the tree should come down. As we turned the corner, I told my son that the tree hadn’t done well since the October storm, a third of the limbs having no leaves.
He sensed that the tree, and the birds, needed a defender. He said, “but it’s home,” to which I can only agree, “yes, it is.”