It's 11 a.m. on a Saturday and the meeting room at the Glendale Heights United Methodist Church in Durham is awash in Cub Scouts. Troop Number 476 is holding its annual "Pinewood Derby" race. A row of freshly painted wooden vehicles that look like Matchbox cars on steroids are poised atop a sloping track that runs the length of the room. At the finish line, a red light on a black box blinks once for the winner, twice for the second-place finisher and three times for the loser in each heat.
We've come to see my son's friend, Raymond, race his lucky "Silver Bullet." Looking around at the blur of blue uniforms, "God Bless America" T-shirts and paper cups brimming with Coca-Cola, we settle in for some good, clean family fun.
And then I remember: My 4-year-old is wearing blue polish on his nails.
The kids at his daycare center often paint on nail polish for fun--boys as well as girls. But somehow, I don't think his fashion choice is going to go over very well in this crowd.
In the end, nobody seems to notice or much care, until one of the Cubs leans down and whispers to my son, "When you join up, you can't wear nail polish or they'll laugh at you."
I wait for his face to fall or redden, but none of that happens. Instead, he leaps happily from his seat and begins to pound his blue-nailed hands together for the latest winner--like any another macho Scout-wannabe.
His innocence melts my heart like a race car tire in a skid. While the crowd erupts in cheers for the drivers, I inwardly pump a fist for the right to stay comfortable in our own skins.