My name is Toby. I’m twelve years old. I’m in the seventh grade. My favorite food is chicken burritos and my favorite person is my neighbor, and if you think it’s weird that he’s 80 years old, that’s just fine. My favorite band is Queen, my favorite writer is Neil Gaiman, and my favorite dog is my only dog. His name is Jake the Dog. Don’t mess with Jake the Dog. He’ll eat your face for breakfast.
Not really. Just kidding. Jake the Dog eats Senior Skinny Kibble for breakfast. He’s old and fat, and one of my mom’s things is that everyone improves with the right diet. Which is why four nights out of seven we eat tofu. It’s not that bad with ketchup.
We used to have Jake the Hamster. But he died.
I’ve been taking a lot of pictures lately. One reason—it’s fall. A warm fall, but a colorful fall. Fall is my favorite. It’s a quieting down of the world, and you know how much I like a quiet world (obviously, that’s why I had three sons). Fall is a lush bedtime story before the sleep of winter. And I want to get pictures of it.
Second reason—I’m writing a book that features photographs and the book takes place in the fall. It’s about a 12-year-old boy who discovers unsavory moments in his town’s past, while gaining a best friend who’s having unsavory moments in her present. That means I have to try and see the world through the eyes of a 12-year-old, and that hasn’t been as hard as you might think.
Twelve is one of those horrifying ages. It’s when you realize (if you are lucky enough to get that far without having the knowledge forced upon you already) that the world isn’t quite what it seemed during ages 11, 10, 9, and so forth. The world, instead, is populated mostly by people who care more about their own desires than your own needs. And you, probably, are no different.
But also it’s a great age! The age when you finally gain some control over what you do, who you see, when you go to bed. The age at which you are granted hints that someday all of the choices will be yours to make. And that can make 12-year-olds giddy and gleeful, like the puppies they so recently were.
I’m writing right now at the skate park. My two younger boys, plus a pack of friends, are circling around and around on various wheeled implements of destruction. They are watching each other, watching themselves, waiting for mistakes and missteps. They are waiting for mortifying failure and they are waiting for something great to happen. And, of course, it will.