March 08, 2010

How to Remove Plaque

Like many adults, when I go home to stay with my parents I return to a bedroom left mostly preserved from my teen years. It's not exactly a shrine, more like seeing the set of Leave it to Beaver or Fonzie's jacket at the Museum of Natural History. Resting on bookshelves are the various sports trophies, ribbons and medals I won as a kid and high schooler, mostly in basketball and soccer.

Among the prizes on display are two plaques, one for being the Most Improved Player on my high school basketball team, the other a wood and metal representation of a basketball going into a basket. I think I won that plaque for winning the one-on-one basketball competition at sports camp. I was 12-13 years old at the time and I remember facing a guy named Goldstein in the finals, with the entire camp watching. Goldstein was quick, crafty, and a good shooter. It was a real dogfight and I think I prevailed 10-9. For this they gave me a plaque.

Back in September we visited my parents in Maryland for Rosh Hashana. Archie, now 5, asked me about the trophies and awards on display, what I got them for and how old I was at the time. At the end of the visit he gave the two plaques to Ora to pack up and bring back to Brooklyn. When we got home he placed them on the window sill near his bed. At bedtime that night he showed me the plaques. In the dark I whispered "someday you're going to win your own trophies and then you won't need mine."

This winter Archie played on his first real soccer team and in his first basketball clinic. He was playing with older kids in both sports; many of the basketball kids were 7 years old. Archie handled himself admirably. He never looked to me for help and he never stopped trying. He also played damn well, his skill level leapfrogging over many of the older players.  He was lucky to have excellent coaches in both sports: The soccer coach is the coach at Poly Prep and his basketball coach just won his 300th game at Friends Seminary. Plus both coaches are great guys.

Pathetically, predictably, I silently lived and breathed every goal and made basket of every game and practice. I felt less like a rabid zealot when the soccer coach, whose daughter was on the team, confessed to a similar level of excitement.  Basically, I loved every minute of these first opportunities to watch Archie play - and enjoy - sports. He couldn't get enough. In the spring he will play on his first Little League baseball team with two of his friends (I am a co-coach) and I hope for more of the same.

This past weekend the soccer and basketball seasons came to a close. After the soccer game Archie got a nice trophy, 12 inches tall with a spinning soccer ball on top. His basketball group got to perform a dribbling exhibition at halftime of a game between older kids in the same youth league, after which he and his co-players each received a nice medal, not to mention pizza and juice. A great way to wrap things up.

Later in the evening I went out to play tennis. When I got back Archie was asleep. I went into my room and saw that he had moved my two plaques to the night table next to my bed. I tiptoed over to his room and peeked in. The soccer trophy and basketball medal rested on his window sill. I don't know whether Archie took my whispered message literally or if he found the same poignancy I felt in his achievements.  I am not going to ask.

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