seven 8 nine

My dearest Jacob James,

You turned 8 years old on March fourteenth and are a smart, funny, industrious, resourceful, feisty eight-year-old.  The past eight years are truly brimming with Jacob stories— you’ve gone from three to eight in a heartbeat.  My sincerest apologies that your annual letter is six weeks delayed.  And your birthday party was a month behind schedule.  Maybe we’ve had a lot going on for the past five months.  Or maybe I just don’t want you getting any older…  In my annual tradition, this letter is meant to capture and preserve just a little glimpse into eight-year-old Jake.

Over the past few months, you’ve settled into life in San Luis.  I’m sure you still miss Truman (and Gavin and Stuart), but you haven’t dissolved into a “whhhhhy did we moooove heeeeere” puddle in several months.  Although you have such fond memories of Trace, I don’t really remember any mornings where you didn’t want to go to school this year.  In the mornings, you help me drop Nate off at his classroom where you’re greeted by your five-year-old fan club— especially Kai and Cruz.  You basque in their little boy adoration.

And speaking of little boys… you like to hang with Ethan and Evan and Logan.  You have a number of other friends but you don’t always know their names.  You’re still one of those kids that walks across the blacktop and about town and boys of roughly the same height smile and wave and give you a “Hi Jacob.”  You give them the ‘sup head nod and, when prodded for names, just smile and shrug.

On the topic of friends, we recently held your joint birthday party at an enormous gymnastics gymnasium with ten other rambunctious youngsters.  You were thrilled to see Russel— your buddy from Y Camp.  After months of sleuthing, I was able to track down one of your favorite second graders through a google search and a friend from high school.  This is most certainly a small town.  The second you saw him the entire crowd launched into a rendition of “My name is Joe, I live in Costcoooo…”  Such a heartfelt reunion.

We spent that afternoon watching you all jump and tumble and bounce through a “parkour” course created and led by two young coaches: Ashley and Mark.  Mark dazzled you all with his flips and spins and skateboardy vibe.  He couldn’t have been more perfect.  Some barbecue ribs, lemonade and chocolate cupcakes and you buzzed, flipped and tumbled all the way back to our house where you and your brother dove into gift bags and detonated a Lego explosion.

Half our living room is dedicated to Jake’s Lego Land.  You set-up acres of miniature worlds with vehicles and headless guys and wars on every level— tabletops, chairs, floors, shelves brimming with Lego landmines.  No, literally.  You take the little button Legos and tell me they’re landmines.  I recently found a slightly threatening note you wrote to the cleaning team warning them not to touch your Legos.  The “skull and cross bones” was especially effective.

You got a giant bag of army guys at Supercuts last week and created a new game.  It’s like Harry Potter wizarding chess.  All I know is that the rules are always changing and my guys’ weapons are clearly short-range whereas your guys can leap onto boxes, blast me and then take cover.  I hate to admit it, but your machine-gun sound effects are rather impressive.  My guys are just sitting ducks.

And while we’re talking fowl, you are the family Chicken Whisperer.  Granddad brought us three “trial chickens” and you have risen to your new responsibilities like the mini-Granddad that you are.  You’ve been wearing my Hunter boots as you check on them every chance you get.  Your chicken training regimen has really made a difference.  Chicken Nugget, Chicken Sando and Death Destroyer are like a flock of feathered puppies.

Speaking of pets, you’re not a teacher’s pet, but I can tell Maestra Koch has a special fondness for you.  She is the opposite of last year’s Maestra Gonzales.  Where Gonzales was short and loud and always barking orders, Koch is tall and soft-spoken.  You’re one of only two native English speakers in your class and you’ve risen to the challenge like a champ.  You love math and science and recreo.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt prouder than our two parent-teacher conferences this year.

While we’re talking teachers, you idolize your substitute teacher, Mr. Santos.  We spent an afternoon searching for his rock shop and found it by my work.  You strode confidently into his shop, ready to receive your free prize as a proud Pacheco Panther.  When we went into the back to meet Mr. Santos in person, we immediately knew each other.  It took a few minutes, but we finally placed ourselves as cast members during my freshman year in Cal Poly’s acclaimed big stage performance of Neil Simon’s Fools.  Mr. Santos had Jacobo’s number right away— recognizing the path to your devoted loyalty was laid with rock knowledge and prizes.  He nonchalantly let you hold his several thousand dollar Megalodon tooth.

Which reminds me, you are still mega into Pokémon, Minecraft and video games.  Maestra Koch and Mr. Guardado probably think you play video games all day given how much you write about them.  Hopefully they recognize the majority of your writing as fantasy.

And you still have a fantastical imagination.  This past year we’ve spent hours upon hours together in the wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter.  We both are so sad it is over.  We read How to Eat Fried Worms, but it wasn’t as good as I remembered.  And we read every single Calvin and Hobbes collection.  Even though the majority of its nuanced humor went over your head, it inspired a renewed interest in outdoor adventures and snowmen.  You’re now re-reading it on the couch at night when I go to bed.

You’re still having a tough time getting to sleep at night, but it’s getting better every night that Daddy’s home.  You may always be a stealthy night ninja… priding yourself in your cat-like ability to sneak up on unsuspecting prey watching subtitled episodes of the Americans.  You have always been busy.  Busy with the world of things you want to build and see and do.

You are generally bare chested and barefoot.  You are all elbows and big front teeth and freckles and ripped knees.  You give me “back hugs” at school and squirm from my air kisses.  You’re known for your affinity for jokes involving plays on words.  I’d say you deserve all the credit for tapping your little Cousin Devon’s interests in stand-up comedy.

I can’t wait to watch you continue to grow and learn and become exactly who you already are.  I love you Jakey Cakes.  Every little funny, stubborn bit of you.  We are so proud of you and are doing our best to savor every single second.


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