March in New England brings melting snow, the desperate hope of spring and the youth basketball season to our little town. Every Saturday, parents of eight to twelve year olds gather in the school gymnasium to watch their children compete. This is my son Sammy's second year playing on a team. The games are short enough for him to keep focus (about twenty five minutes) and he enjoys being with the other kids. Every Saturday morning, I gather up the herd, and we make our way over to watch that weeks game.
My other three kids love going to Saturday basketball. For one reason. The bleachers. Those gigantic wooden structures, that unfold from the walls of the gymnasium, creating instant seating for a hundred or so people. I hate them. The person who invented these anxiety causing monstrosities, was definitely not a parent. What mother in her right mind would design something that rises fifty feet in the air with seating resembling an enormous staircase, WITH NO RAILINGS?! What is the FIRST thing that any kid wants to do when they see them?... Run to the top.... And then back down, fifty thousand times. My kids can be particularly creative. Simply running up and down is boring to them. No, they need to challenge the laws of gravity, to laugh in the face of danger...to age their mother. They will run up sideways and come down backwards, they will go up sitting and come down sliding. They will hop and twirl and play balance beam. They will come down backwards hopping on one foot with their eyes closed,while reciting the alphabet.They will do all this without regard to life, limb, or their mothers mental health. There is so much tension in the gym on Saturday mornings, and none of it is from the basketball being played.
I try to keep track of the game. I am there to support my son. It is just so difficult to both watch a game and keep your children from killing themselves. On the court, the boys, all attired in baggy shorts, run back and forth-all elbows and knees. Sammy gets the ball and immediately passes it to another player. This is a big improvement from last year. Back then, if he got the ball, he would giggle uncontrollably. Or, if he saw a friend on the opposing team, he would drop the ball in order to give him a hug. This year, he is much more focused. He passes the ball with intent...he picks a player to guard, and jumps up and down in front of him frantically waving his arms. Someone shouts "way to go Sammy!" My boy is appreciated.( There are definite attributes to living in a small town.) I on the other hand am twisting and turning, trying to watch the game AND catch any of my kids should they take a misstep.I am NOT poetry in motion. I am more like a bizarre contortionist who lacks direction. One eye on the game, and the other tracking the antics of three very creative acrobats. I think about covering them all in pillows-or at least duct taping them next to me.When, finally,the buzzer goes off. The game is over. There is no winner, they don't keep score. But, I feel like a champion. All of my children are walking out of the gym alive. We have survived another Saturday basketball game.
We are all quiet on the way home. They all played hard,and they are tired. I am exhausted. Seven more days until the next game. I wonder if it is wrong to pray for a snowstorm.