So this is where I was last night. In a church. At the Court of Honor for a new-minted Eagle Scout, Jordy, son of one of my best friends.
Now, I know there are people hereabouts who did the whole Boy Scout thing. But this is all new and foreign to me. When I was the age a boy might become an Eagle, I considered the entire business of uniformed do-gooding and mandated wholesomeness fascistic. I considered the few boys who took that path to be complete dorks. Of the twelve traits listed on the left side of that program, I could proudly have proclaimed “none of the above.” (Although I’ve cleaned up and gotten more cheerful since then, you can guess which two traits I’ve still never even attempted. And never will.)
I’m still not sure there’s a teenage boy on the planet who can honestly state that those 12 claims apply to him. Back in the day I’d have considered that hypocrisy. Now I can see that it’s actually aspirational. But … urm, the whole business of uniforms and badges and promises to be “clean” (we all know what that means in teenage boy terms, as is made clear in the Scout’s prayer on the back of the program) still creeps me out.
This ceremony was rather a big deal, though. Although the littlest scouts endearingly fumbled their way through it and the oldest active scouts fumbled their way negligently or embarrassingly through it, for Jordy, it was some accomplishment. He’s the second son in a two-boy family. His brother Mike, an Eagle before him, is one of those typical older sons to whom everything came easy. Handsome, smart, earnest, and likable, Mike always seemed to breeze through school, sports, the social maze, scholarships, and all that life hands to teenage boys. Jordy followed doggedly in Mike’s path. But for him, it was a struggle and a slog. His path to the honor roll and the running-start program (in which he’s finishing his last two years of high school and his first two of college at the same time) ran though years of odd, hard-to-diagnose learning disabilities. His final steps in the Eagle program were marked by small catastrophes and the tendency toward inertia. Although he now seems likely to follow Mike into a challenging engineering program at a challenging school, for a while it seemed doubtful he’d go to college at all.
He has that second-son haplessness to overcome at every stage. But with the help of strict (but loving, involved, and intelligent) parenting, overcome it he does. In fact, thanks to his dogged competitiveness, he even beat Mike’s accomplishments at sports.
So I hauled myself out of my cozy house in the cold dark of the night to be one more person saying, “Well done, Jordy.” The whole business was way too much God and country for (non-obedient, non-reverent) me. Too much church-going, too much flag-saluting, too much public praying. (It’s telling that, in a crowd of about 50 people I didn’t know anybody but the immediate family. In a town this small, you always know somebody; but this was a seriously different world than the one I inhabit.)
Still: “Well done, Jordy. Congratulations.”