Previously: Greg Estrada's girlfriend, Lia, was looking for a partner in raising her 8-year-old son, Jackson. But Greg had never spent much time around children.
Greg estrada and Jackson arrived at the Uptown movie theater in Northwest Washington an hour before the Saturday matinee. They wanted the best possible seats for the latest "Star Wars" episode.
They'd spent plenty of time together over the last few months -- ice skating, picnicking, swimming. But Lia, Jackson's mother and Greg's girlfriend, had always been with them. This afternoon Lia, not much of a sci-fi fan, had decided to stay home. The guys were on their own, with Greg in charge.
This felt a little strange to Greg, who finds it easier to pal around with Jackson than be an authority figure. And Jackson seems to look at his mom's boyfriend as more peer than parent. The 8-year-old, with his bouncy brown curls and his newly emerged adult teeth, recently confided to Greg that he hadn't been taking his asthma medicine.
"Don't tell my mom," Greg remembers Jackson whispering. "Of course I had to tell her," Greg says. "And later Jackson was like, 'You ratted on me.' "
Greg, 41, is still trying to figure out how to project a more parental role. "I shouldn't always be joking around," he says. "I have to present myself as a stable figure that he can count on, not as entertainment, like a clown coming into a party."
When they passed by the Uptown ticket taker, Greg recalls, he and Jackson both had bulges under their shirts. They were smuggling in food. Greg makes a habit of this, he says, because theater concessions are "pure and utter garbage." But how could Greg sneak in contraband bags of trail mix and cans of all-natural soda without also sending Jackson the message that it's okay to flout the rules? Greg had been mulling over this quandary for several days. He finally decided to explain to Jackson that eating healthfully was more important than sticking to the theater rules.
The lights dimmed in the theater, and Jackson reveled in his surroundings. He'd never been to the Uptown, a historic art deco movie palace whose single screen is 40 feet high and about 70 feet wide. "He's grown up going to what [could be compared to] a post-age stamp at the end of a bowling alley, that kind of theater," Greg says. Now he felt happy that Jackson was having a new experience.
Jackson also seemed pleased, Greg says. The boy had seen previous "Star Wars" movies and had been reading "Star Wars" books, too. He'd recently tucked one such book under his white button-down shirt before attending a friend's First Holy Communion, though he never dared to read the book during the service with his mom sitting right next to him.
With the movie well underway, Jackson looked over at the neighboring seat. His mom's boyfriend was slumped over and sound asleep.
-- Tyler Currie