I have upon occasion had the experience of seeing daughters of friends of mine—who I first met when they were just rambunctious little munchkin—grow up to be young women, but until recently I never had the experience of seeing someone (a young lad) who I had seen as an infant grow up to be considerably bigger than I am. Since I’m a smidgeon under 6’3” and weigh over 200 pounds, it hasn’t happened very often. One of my fondest memories is a visit I made in March of 1990 to some friends of mine who live in a suburb of San Diego. I distinctly remember my friend Barbara picking up her not yet four- month-old son Bryant and tucking him into his stroller, all while his six year old sister was commenting indignantly, “You’re keeping us waiting, Bryant Edward Wheatley.” I thought to myself, “That’s a pretty savvy six year old. She knows she can’t yell at her Mom, but she’ll yell at her infant brother!”
Twenty years later, I got to make another trip to San Diego and boy-oh-boy has Bryant grown up. I’d seen him a number of times in the interim, and I’d know that from Kindergarten through high school, he’d always been the biggest in his class. His mother is 6 feet tall barefoot, and I tease her that its no wonder she married the man she did, she must like standing on tip toe when she kisses him. I also kid her that on the first day of school she would need to make sure that her son carried a copy of his birth certificate to school: otherwise his teacher might think some college kid was sneaking into her middle school class. And then she’d better get busy baking several dozen cookies because I imagined that all the new kids in school would take one look at that *ginormous* young fellow and stand in line to make friends with him. I mean, if you’re friends with the biggest kid in the school, who’s going to mess with you, right?
I hadn’t seen Bryant for several years and I was amazed at how much that kid has grown. He now towers over not only me but his father as well, and upon shaking hands with him I couldn’t help but notice that he has spent a whole lot of time in a weight room, so I’m not going to challenge him to an arm wrestling match. People might start calling me leftie. I’m happy to report that Bryant is a very pleasant, amiable, and well-mannered young gentleman, and I’m very glad of that. The thought occurred to me that if he had a long memory and a nasty sense of humor he just might pick me up, toss me in the air, bounce me on his knee a couple of times, and then start pinching my cheeks, saying “You’re such a cute middle-aged guy! Yes you are! Yes you are!” Considering what positively, preternaturally powerful paws that kid has, I would probably develop jowls that would make me look like a basset hound.
During my visit, I heard something from Bryant’s mom that made me do a double take. She and I went on a pizza run (a tip to old folks who want to make a hit with the younger set, be a provider of large quantities of pizza. That usually goes over quite well.) Barbara commented to me that her son used to be friends with some of the kids who worked at the pizza parlor (which incidentally produces the largest pizzas I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I thought 21 inches was big. This place makes pizzas close to a yard across. That managed to hold Bryant and his two sisters for a while, although the next day I didn’t see a single leftover slice).
Anyhow, on our way back to the house, Bryant’s mom commented to me that he had once been friends with some of the kids at the pizza place, but since they had gotten into drugs, he decided that he wanted to have absolutely nothing to do with them. I considered asking Barbara if I could borrow her son for a couple of days and take him back to Columbus, as I know several hundred teenagers who need to follow his good example. I’m delighted to report that Bryant is not just a physical giant, but he is a moral and intellectual giant as well.
So how do you get a kid that good? It helps when he has really outstanding parents.