Evart, Michigan is a small town among small towns. Nestled along the Muskegon River, Evart boasts a single road of charming downtown, a city hall depot, a hotel and a summer concert series that includes the Evart Folk Fest. My friend Mary has been inviting me to attend this event for a few years now. Evart is very close to my mom’s lake house, and this year, I decided to head over that way with Ev.
Ev and I pretty much travel everywhere together. He is my little buddy and companion, but like my oldest Ryan, he likes to know the plan. Even if the plan is a loose one, he has to know what’s going on. Because earlier this summer we headed to another northern Michigan hidden treasure called Blissfest, Ev understood the idea of a music festival—and as he calls it, a folksmusic one in particular.
“So Mama, when are we going to the Folksmusicfestuhbal?” To Evan, this is one word, clearly enunciated. Several times a day from the first day I told him until the moment we were on our way, Ev asked this question.
He was very concerned about whether or not there would be a “kids’ area like at Blissfest”.
“Well, there might be one, but we can’t know for sure if there is a kids’ area until we get there.”
“But do you think there is one, Mom?”
This was asked in tandem with the “when are we going to the folksmusicfestuhbal” question. Like a pair, they belonged together and Ev rubbed them together in his mind like worry stones, wondering if this was going to be yet another all adult event.
I feel for Ev. I really do. He is a social guy—an extrovert of the extrovertiest kind—with an introvert (and getting introvertier by the day) for a mama. My poor little wonder.
Most of Ev’s days are filled with imaginative play, talking to himself and building all sorts of things out of Legos. At one time, the Legos were new and had pictures and instructions for building, but those days are long gone. Now the Legos live in one great big plastic jumblebin and all the pictures of Lego ideas must come from his own imagination.
Of course, there is Lila, the neighbor girl and Ev’s self-proclaimed girlfriend. She is eight and watches over Ev like her own personal little live baby doll. He tolerates the hovering because they play imaginatively. The other day the two of them dragged out every small stuffed animal we have and played Zoo.
“We’re playing zoo, mama.”
“Who are you? Are you the zookeeper?”
“No, Lila’s the zookeeper. I’m the security officer watching over all the animals.” (Of course, he is. I have to smile to myself at this one. He is a protector by nature—so much like his brother Ryan.)
Although Ev and Lila play just about every evening, his days are filled mostly with middle aged women, namely his mama and her colorful assortment of friends.
Sometimes I worry about this.
While we were at the folksmusicfestuhbal in Evart, I was watching him settle in among all the women there. He helped as he could with the picnic lunch, gave people napkins, offered cheese and crackers. He was quite the young host. I thought about how easily he moves among adults, how grown up his vocabulary, how quickly he shifts to his own quiet play when the women began to chat.
Then, when a new concert started, we moved under the big tent to sit in our chairs and listen. Ev sat nicely in his chair and asked me questions about the instruments and the music. He munched on Japanese corn snacks. He tapped in feet and clapped his hands. He was completely absorbed in the aura of the folksmusicfestuhbal until…
Until he spotted the girl sitting next to my friend Mary.
She was about his age with pretty brown hair, and Ev was smitten. I can always tell when he is smitten by his innate need to show off his masculine prowess. This only seems to happen when he spots a girl who catches his fancy. During a song, he sauntered over and climbed up on Mary’s lap in order to be closer to the girl. After making eye contact, he started punching himself (admittedly not the brightest way to show prowess) and kicking his feet karate style. He twitched and turned a sidelong glance to the girl as he gave his best shot at a roughandtough look. Stifling guffaws, I about spit out the water I was drinking through my nose.
The little girl smiled and offered him some popcorn.
Ev smiled back and extended his Japanese corn snacks.
The two began to chat comfortably as they munched, and all was well with his world.
In some ways, I felt relieved to see this normal exchange of pre-tween hormones. I was glad to see him talk as easily with adults as with kids his own age. He seemed to move between the worlds with an ease and grace that most adults would envy. As Ev settled into easy friendship with the young girl, it made me hopeful that all the time spent with middle aged women is not ruining him for life.
Somehow, I think he’ll make it through without much need for therapy. (Just let me shoot for the stars here.)
An added bonus is all the great folksmusic he gets to enjoy along the way.