Dribble Dabbler

The last time I mentioned dribbling, it was because my baby son’s salivary control was practically non-existent. Actually, I don’t think I was blogging yet at that point, so I probably didn’t mention it. Consider yourself fortunate.

Now, it’s all about repeatedly bouncing a basketball, slobber not included.

Benjamin is eight years old for about another month, and his favorite school playground pasttime this spring has been hanging out, playing one-on-none. He shoots, he scores, he dribbles around nobody, and then he shoots again. Other boys ask him to play, but he declines and develops his skills in solitude.

For two of the past three nights, he and I have escaped the house for about a half hour to shoot baskets together on the same spot. His school is an easy bicicyle ride from home, and its four goals almost guarantee availability in a time when most children seem to prefer video games. Honestly, he has chosen me as a playmate those days because he could find nobody else, but it has been a great time for us. I love just shooting baskets as much as he does. We are content to shoot until we make it (with a recently added limit of 10 tries) and then hand the ball back to the other guy for his shots. There are many passes after rebounds, and some dribbling.

Before that, I hadn’t shot a basket in more than a decade, if that recently.

The bad part? We did it all with a cheap, lopsided soccer ball he got for participating in Jump Rope for Heart. The issue of receiving a reward for altruistic activities aside, it was not a quality ball in the first place, and it was a poor substitute for a basketball.

Our plan was for my brother to give him a basketball for his birthday, but by that time the weather in Texas will not be very conducive to doing anything outdoors that doesn’t involve getting into a pool, lake, or river. So, Thursday, as a sort of reward for such a great third grade year, Shannon took him to a local store and they picked out a basketball the appropriate size and weight for his age.

That night, he kept the ball by his side anywhere he went. We were easy on him a couple times when he dribbled it in the entryway, but made it clear that was not allowed inside the house. Somehow he left it in the living room at bedtime, and I pressed in on it to test the pressure. Not full enough.

I took it into the garage and pumped it much tighter. A test dribble produced that signature “ping” that comes from inside a bouncing basketball — exactly what I wanted. The next morning I handed it to him.

“Go try it just real quick in the entryway. Listen to it,” I said.

When he did, he snapped his head back a bit when the ball bounced higher than he expected. His face lit up. “Cool!”

Writing this now, I’m upset with myself for not carving out a few minutes that night to go test out his new ball on the school’s hoops. I didn’t get home until 5:30, I had an update to do at 6 p.m., and then we had dinner. Still, I feel I could have made time had I considered how much it would have meant to him.

IMG_2671_sm_blogI made up for it a bit when we went there Saturday morning with his new ball, and took turns for almost an hour. When his shooting skills improve and I have finished knocking off the rust, I hope he will be up for a friendly game of HORSE. We could start now if we limit the range, and he just might beat me. (click image for larger version)

What Do You Remember From When You Were Eight?

It’s strange, the things I remember from childhood. My son’s eight years old, and although I don’t remember much from when I was that age, the things I recall are as clear as if they happened yesterday.

I know I was in Mrs. Elslander’s 3rd grade class, but I don’t remember much about her or what we learned. She was probably about 60 or 65 and had salt-and-pepper hair done up in a bouffant.

This is when a middle school or high school kid stopped by our recess one day and taught us a dirty rhyme about King Kong playing ping-pong, and when an unkempt kid our age told us a dirty joke about little Johnny Harder. I still remember that joke, but I won’t be repeating it here.

We also had music class, where we played games like guessing TV show theme songs our teacher had recorded by setting her cassette recorder next to the television. When not doing that, we played games directed by the song “What Are You Wearing? (Today, today)” If you’re wearing shoes, stand up, the man sang, and all of us dutifully stood until he sang a line like, If you’re wearing a belt, sit down. With a substitute teacher we learned diction using the classic, “What do you think, of Bobby Link, who went for a swim, with nothing to drink, but iced tea, hot tea, milk in a jug in a kitchen sink?”

Then there are the lyrics to this classic. “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree-e, merry merry king of the bush is he-e, laugh, kookaburra laugh, kookaburra, gay your life must be.” A teacher now wouldn’t dare try to teach that song to the children. (The rock band Men at Work got sued many years later, by the way, for allegedly copying that song’s tune for the catchy flute part in their hit “Down Under.”)

I remember playing with a parachute in gym class. Each of us would grab the edge of the parachute and spread out, then lift it while stepping under it. We would drop to a sitting position and let it float down over us.

A harpsichordist came to the gym and played for us. The sound mesmerized me. From that moment forward I stop and listen to hapsichord whenever I have a chance, completely rapt.

My only time to get beat up (so far) happened at about that age, too. I made fun of a new kid named Patrick (last name withheld) for his precious Minnesota Vikings’ many near misses, and he summarily pinned me and practiced bouncing his fists off my face. I wasn’t normally a bully — the kid just snapped, and in that way he resembled Ralphie wailing on Scott Farkus in “A Christmas Story.” He sat over me flailing blindly, his bleary eyes behind thick glasses. I don’t remember who saved me, but no doubt it was a teacher.

I remember the old car tires, brightly painted and lined up, half sunk into concrete to form a tunnel; the big, stainless steel slide high enough to actually build up speed by the time we reached the bottom; the heavy kid who loved to strand you on the see-saw so that you plummeted and landed with a resonant whump on the wood shavings.

In there somewhere was lots of math, spelling, and language arts. I’m sure some science and history, too, but again, my recollection of the academic side of grammar school is sketchy.

Every time I sipped from the drinking fountain, I laughed when the water pressure went down with the toilet flush from the nearby restrooms. “Yucky, we’re drinking toilet water!” I said, but I don’t recall anyone laughing.

Looking back, I wonder what things my son will remember when he’s 40 years old. If I’m still around, I’ll ask him. Meanwhile, what do you recall?

Because It’s There

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This is another good argument for always taking a camera. I looked up as my son climbed on his school’s playground equipment on a recent Saturday, and there he was, framed perfectly. (click pic to enlarge)

It is oddly similar to a photo I shot when he was a baby, and posted for my Project Looking Through, the first of five in the series.

That first post in the project garnered 35 comments and several readers who participated on their own blogs. Now it seems these spaces have become a niche crowded out by Facebook. I soldier on, however, because I think there’s still something to a page that doesn’t look just like every other, and that doesn’t strive to pull your attention in 10 directions at once. I do enough of that for my paycheck all day. Sit a spell, won’t ya?

Good Girl

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The canine may no longer be the top dog since we’ve had a child, but she still rates pretty high. Here she rests contentedly while the boy works on his diorama, just an hour or so after happily submitting to his belly rub. (click pic to enlarge)

Things weren’t always that smooth between the two.

When we first brought Cassie home from the rescue organization’s foster placement, she immediately took to us, but was not happy with the new level of competition that Benjamin brought. She cowered and growled any time he got close, and nipped at his leg once — fortunately for both without breaking the skin. I had told Shannon that she was going back at the first sign of trouble.

For years she wouldn’t follow when he tried to lead her to the back door, but changed her tune when he became a regular filler of her food bowl. Now she wags her stubby excuse for a tail and leans toward his outstretched hand, rather than avoiding him at all costs.

They have developed a relationship and, although Benjamin still occasionally laments the passing of sweet Lexie a few years ago, Cassie is the first pet with which he truly has formed a bond.

Funny how it’s almost the opposite for me. Lexie was our only “child” for nearly 11 years before Benjamin came along, my first pet since the steady stream of outdoor dogs back in my boyhood home. Saying goodbye to her was difficult for me.

While I have grown to love Cassie, it just isn’t and never could be the same after having a child. I hope she doesn’t read this.