WARNING:Before anyone gets butt hurt about the title, please continue to read this post as it relates to the title.
Eventually, the nerds and the geeks will have their day. -Judd Apatow
This past Thursday, we hosted a track meet at College Park High School. It was a practice meet, no places kept, no medals awarded, and the only thing that truly mattered to the coaches were the times and distances as we prepare for our first meet this coming week. As the meet came to its last event, we shuffled runners on and off the track so that we could finish up, get inside, and get warm. As I looked up to check the lanes, I couldn't help but notice one young man. He was tall and gangly with a distance runner's physique, but what really stood out what his red hair and freckles. Not only did he have the same haircut as Peyton used to sport, but he looked enough like Peyton that I had to take off my glasses, rub my eyes, and do a double take. Needless to say, it wasn't Peyton. Peyton has been dead for almost two and a half years, but none the less, the resemblance was shocking.
Flash forward to yesterday. Lisa and I took Emmy down to Houston for one of her former classmate Ally's birthday party. For the uninitiated, the birthday party of a five year old is a blend of the various action scenes from the Mad Max/Road Warrior films. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Thunderdome is relatively tranquil compared to sugared up five year olds. Now add in that it was not just a party for Ally, but also her seven year old brother Greg, and you have the makings of pure pandemonium. Mixed in among the mob was another little red headed boy. Not only was he similar in appearance, but also actions to Peyton. At one point, he had taken off his shoes to test the strength of some dead reeds in order to poke at the koi in a fish pond with a stick. Again, I was reminded of my son, but at a younger age.
These two cases of deja vu truly got me to thinking about all the other red headed kids I have seen since Peyton's death. They never seem to be in possession of a comb, thus leading to an unruly mop upon their head, like Peyton. The cavalier attitude of adventure over their own safety was too, like Peyton. The fact that they are all arms and legs, lacking in grace and athleticism reminds me of, you guessed it, Peyton. Never mind the fact that they all seemed to be lovable nerds, like Peyton.
I have no doubt that there are graceful red heads that can dunk a basketball after taking off from the free throw line, throw a slider that never fails to catch the corner of the plate, repeatedly make acrobatic catches in the end zone, or who have never seen an episode of Dr. Who or The Walking Dead. Just like I have no doubt there are red heads who possess the grace of a Baryshnikov, the hair of a Clooney or Pitt, even the complexion of Kutcher or Reynolds. However, it never fails that every red head I see never fails to remind me of Peyton.
Maybe its because I miss him so damn much. Maybe because he should be walking the halls of a high school right now. Maybe because whenever I see the trailer for the latest Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, or Harry Potter spinoff, I want to call him so he can watch it, call me back and discuss it. Maybe it is because I will be heading to Austin this week for the state swim meet for the fifth straight year, and I will pass all of the landmarks that he used to point of every time we passed them. But whatever the reason is, it seems that all the red heads I see are all goofy, gangly, nerdy kids like Peyton.
Perhaps it is meant to be this way. Maybe all of these kids are reminders of just how truly special Peyton truly was. How not every one is meant to be a star athlete, or smooth with the ladies, or even able to dazzle socially. Maybe we need to be reminded of that despite being far from perfect, there are people out there that will capture our hearts with their awkwardness and quirks.
Next time I am out and about, walking through the halls at school, or even braving the savagery of a children's birthday party, and I see a red head step and throw with the same arm and leg, choose not to play tag because he wants to finish a chapter, or even get soaked falling into a fish pond, I will think to myself that red headed nerds are everywhere, and for that I thank God.