Anthropology of Three

Living and Breathing Basketball

4 Comments 19 June 2013

After Momma and Da-day, Baby #1’s first word was ball.

He would startle with delight every time he even saw a ball. He would shout Ball! toward TVs hanging in restaurant bars when they showed any type of sport, especially basketball.

On a cab ride from Logan Airport to our hotel in Copley Center on his first big trip to Boston when he was 15 months old, he saw a no-smoking sticker and exclaimed around his pacifier, “Ball!”

The word ball was economic and democratic. With a single word, he could bond with almost anyone about almost any form of competitive physical activity.

Although small in frame, his athletic physique was evident from his earliest months. In his attempts to roll over from tummy to back, he would lift his entire body up in the air from the shoulders down. He accomplished his goal before he was two months old.

Just after he could sit unsupported at five months old, he learned to sit with his legs in a V and roll a ball back and forth with us.

At The Little Gym, his favorite time came between skill of the week and bubbles—balls. The only reason he was okay with Miss Jennifer putting them away was that he could make a basket in the full-size garbage can that stored them.

As a baby, he dunked on his small Fisher-Price Dunk’n Cheer Basketball hoop that sounded realistic crowd cheers for each and every basket. For his second birthday, we gave him a Little Tikes plastic outdoor basketball goal from Costco. He stood under the big oak tree in front of our old house and shot baskets for the next 18 months, steadily progressing to the next adjustable height.

Basketball Goal

Now five years old and with a regulation height goal cemented into the ground next to the driveway, Baby #1 has spent the past six months living and breathing basketball as if it were his only sustenance.

Morning after morning, he has woken up and begun dribbling his inside ball.

Afternoon after afternoon, he has returned home from Day School to shoot around in the living room and hallway.

Evening after evening, he has dribbled in the driveway and shot hoops.

Jacob Riis Quote

A steady and persistent pounding toward any goal of any kind over and over again.

We casually talked about the idea of putting him in organized basketball soon. Summer snuck up on us, and we had not yet decided.

On the last day of sign up, we went to the YMCA to register for the summer youth basketball league.

A few days later, we picked up the team roster for the Thunder—Baby #1’s third-favorite NBA team after the Spurs and the Rockets.

The weekend before the first practice, the team was without a coach so Daddy volunteered.

At the first practice, the boys received their team jerseys. Thanks to Coach Daddy, Baby #1 got his first number, a favorite—#13. James Harden’s number.

Last Saturday, at 9:00 a.m., the Thunder played the Rockets. And so began Baby #1’s basketball career.

Grandpa Towel

Baby #1’s initiation into the world of basketball has coincided with the 2013 NBA Playoffs and Finals in a way that has given him the greatest mentors in the game.

At home, he has had the blessing of the three greatest mentors in his life.

He shares basketball and the Rockets with Daddy in a way that many children three times his age might miss. After a first Guys’ Night Out to a Rockets game, James Harden became his favorite Rockets player. Because Harden was traded from Oklahoma, the Thunder is his third-favorite team.

And he has his two grandfathers. Both raised sons who played basketball.

His Grandpa was there at his first game to put a towel around his shoulders and give him a high five after the win.

He also shares basketball and the Spurs with Papa in a way that I only ever could have dreamed of for him.

The only grandparent I truly knew was my father’s father. I saw him four times on visits to India. Two of my greatest blessings in life are that he met my wonderful husband and he saw a video of his loving great-grandson, his smiley baby.

I always told Daddy I hoped to have children as young as possible. Although I know and life continues to teach me that everything happens in its own divine time, my prayer came from deeply wanting my children to know their grandparents. All of them. And well. And for as long as possible.

These are the relationships that will shape the man he becomes in a way that we cannot as parents. I know because the few small moments and words I shared with my grandfatherGrandpa, my Appachen—helped shape me through every phase of my life. And still now that he is gone, his memory, his words, his spirit continue to help me become a better daughter, sister, wife, and mother.

Papa and Micah bw

On Father’s Day, the day after Baby #1’s first game, his Papa took him to the Spurs Finals Game 5. Our Oma bought seats for the rest of us, my dear sister, and my dear brother near the rafters at a super-steep price because she knew it would mean her grandson would get to sit just a few rows back from the sideline with his Papa.

Before the game, we visited the Hall of Fame for Season Ticket Holders, where there is an enlarged photo of my father and my dear brother. Our parents names are listed on a plaque.

The Silver Dancers were making an appearance in the hall and posing with fans. Just before we left to enter the arena, one of the dancers noticed Baby #2 and reached down to talk to her.

The fans waiting to take pictures were not amused that these beautiful dancers were wasting their time cooing over an adorable three-year-old girl who pursed her lips and quietly nodded as they asked her about dance class, her recital, and if she wanted to hold a real pom pom.

Silver Dancers

Once in our seats at the top of the arena behind the team benches, even with my contacts in, I did not expect to be able to see my baby and my daddy down near the floor on the other side of the court.

Yet, after a lot of staring and cues from my dear brother, I found them seated behind a woman with a neon green sign and below a couple with white hair and almost-matching light button-down short-sleeved shirts.

Even so far away, I could unmistakably recognize the outline of his heart-shaped face. I could feel his soul smiling, even though I knew his expression would be wide-eyed and intensely focused.

Our baby girls were happy to be there too. Baby #2 watched the images on the JumboTron and learned to cheer Go Spurs Go. Baby #3 cheered with both hands in the air and flirted with the boys behind us, waving and trying to reach out and touch their shoes.

They both climbed all over Daddy on this Father’s Day. Of course, we spent a lot of time looking for the Coyote and the Silver Dancers.

Sometime before the first half, I looked to check on Papa and Baby #1. He had a blob of pink in front of him—only Papas can buy cotton candy. He must be in heaven.

Just before the fourth quarter, I could not see them. But the white-haired couple was standing and looking down. Oh no, were they concerned? The neon-green sign holding lady was standing up and looking back. Did something happen?

After a few of those painful seconds when a mama’s mind wanders to scary places, I saw Papa carrying Baby #1 down to the end of the aisle. Uncle reassured me they were relocating for an unobstructed view.

I too gained a much better view of them surrounded by empty seats at the end of their row. Papa placed Baby #1 to stand on the arm rest and wrapped his arm around his legs as if holding a prized trophy.

The game had been good, but the crowd was out of its mind during the final minutes as the Spurs hit a great stride. With every play, I saw Papa high five his friends and carry Baby #1 in his standing position to give high fives too.

A moment I never knew to even dream about or ever wish to happen. A moment that will shape him. A moment that could make me weep for both of them but makes my soul smile.

RSL Live and Breath Quote

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4 Comments so far

  1. Lori says:

    You have captured the importance, beauty, and essence of this experience in your words.

  2. Lucille Morales says:

    Enjoyed reading this. Brought back many memories of my son, 48 yrs old now. One of his first words was ball.

    He coaches all sports for his children, Kaia almost 11 and Julian, 8. Basketball is their favorite and mine too.

    Tony Parker’s 2 bros help my son coach both teams.

    Hope ur mom is doing fine.

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you, Lucille! How wonderful that your family still shares a love of basketball. So neat to coach with Tony Parker’s brothers, too!!


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