I sat in the back seat of a brown Buick with two of my sixth grade basketball teammates. We were making the return trip up highway 71 after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Hatfield. The three of us were in the dumps. Mrs. G was driving. Feeling the weight of loss in the car, Mrs. G said, "I know what you boys need," and she pushed the half-ejected cassette tape into the stereo and spun the volume knob to the right. The crooning harmonica of Stevie Wonder filled the car.
A collective groan rose from the sticky naugahyde backseat, but undaunted, Mrs. G turned the volume up even louder. Captive to the sentimentality of a thirty-something mother with a penchant for Motown ballads, we endured Dionne Warwick's meandering first verse. We came to the chorus of "That's What Friends are For," and as Warwick sang "friends are for," Mrs. G pointed at each of us on the beat.
Mrs. G's son turned beet read and put his head down. I looked out the window pretending not to notice. The boy to my left had a tear in his eye. (He was such a tenderhearted point guard.)
To this day, this remains one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
Embarrassment aside, though, I was reminded of this story this weekend. It has been a stressful week of tending to four boys, a dog, and a career while Amber has been in Israel. So stressful, in fact, that on occasion I've felt the ends of my nerves fraying. And in one such moment last night, my phone rang. It was my friend and second-sister, Nicole, and we made small talk at first, hemming and hawing a few platitudes. Knowing this wasn't why she called, I said, "what's up?" She came out with it straight, no chaser.