Our theme for the month of November is “firsts.”

It is my birthday. Well, it’s the day before my birthday. I’m turning nine years old. My cousins are over, we’re celebrating a few birthdays, and it comes to that part of the evening when I can open my gifts. At this moment, none of those gifts matter and I don’t remember them anyway. None of those gifts matter, that is, except one. I remember a white envelope, and as I opened it I didn’t dare believe it could be what I hoped it might be. I looked around the room and caught my mom’s eye. This. Was. Real.

For my ninth birthday, I got my first concert tickets. But this wasn’t just any concert—not a CCM staple or even DC Talk (no shade intended, long live the Jesus freaks). I held in my hand tickets to the greatest band of any generation: NSYNC. I could barely breathe. Plus, I could wear my new cross necklace (I’m so icy) to the concert. There were two tickets in the envelope—who’s going with me? Mom? Dad? Someone else fun? Dad. Let’s go.

The concert was that night (THAT NIGHT!), so I ran upstairs to change. I hoped to find something trendy, something that would let everyone at the concert know that this nine-year-old could ball. Maybe, like, a headband! Or could I fashion a shirt into a do-rag? My dad knocked at the door. He wore khakis and a tucked-in denim button-up, and he suggested (strongly) that I wear the same. I pushed back for a second, but did I really want a fight? No, no I did not. Not this night. At least I still had the cross necklace.

So off we went. Me and dad, dressed in matching outfits. No do-rags. Cross necklace flashing. We met a few family friends at the Van Andel, where my dad’s company occupied a suite. We missed the opening act, but it didn’t matter. I sang along with every song, all the while feeling slightly uncomfortable; I’d never seen this level of adoration before.  

My dad bought me a t-shirt after the show, populated with the faces of NSYNC. I loved it and wore it to school the next day.        

Fast forward two, maybe three years. In a rush of pubescent embarrassment, I set the t-shirt on my bed and looked all five members in the eyes: JT, JC, Chris, Lance, and Joey. I grabbed a black sharpie scribbled out their faces, denying them their dignity, ignoring the fact that deep down, and not very deep down, I still loved this band. I’m sorry NSYNC. I cut off the sleeves, significantly shortening the shirt’s half-life and consigning it to a lifetime of soaking up sweat beneath practice jerseys. Bye bye bye.

Brad Zwiers

Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.

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