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Proud Parent: The Text

Friday, November 10, 2006

Proud Parent of a Mental Athlete

Although I have been dutiful in taking my daughter Phoebe to basketball practice two nights a week, and sunny fall Saturdays are often given over to her games, you could never fit a jersey saying “SPORTS MOM” over my head. I love her dearly, and my corporeal body is in the bleachers, but I usually haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on out on the court. In her first season, eight-year-old Phoebe made a single basket, and four mothers simultaneously wiped away tears. The sheer improbability of it all did us in. It was like watching a baby sea turtle struggle across the sand, beset by diving gulls, trying to make it to the ocean. Phoebe dribbled slowly down the court, alone. For once, the ball didn’t bounce off the toe of her shoe. Her thin white arms somehow found the strength to heave the regulation-sized basketball up and over the high rim. All that, and the painfully hard bleachers, combined to move us to weep. I’m still waiting for this season’s perfect conjunction of circumstance.

OK, I’m a writer, not an athlete, and I have a sneaky feeling my daughter takes after me. She came home one afternoon, stood up tall, clicked her heels, and said, “Guess what? I won the Marietta Times’ Scary Story Writing Contest!”

My antennae hove skyward.

“You won the contest over everyone in your class?”

“Um, I think I won it for the whole school.”

Oh, this beat a basket six ways to Sunday. OK, it’s a tiny school, one class per grade. But it’s something.

A few days later, I came in from shopping to find the answering machine ablink. We were to call and make an appointment for Phoebe to record her story on the local AM radio station. This was getting better all the time. I pictured Phoebe in headphones, in the plush-lined hush of a recording studio. I liked the picture.

Phoebe bounced off the bus last night, eyes dancing. “MOM. My teacher says I won it for the whole county!”

Plotz. To burst, as from strong emotion. From Yiddish, plotsn, “to crack.”

Suddenly, I identified with those parents of star athletes, who rare up off the bleachers, pumping their fists, eyes bulging, when their child commandeers the ball. Only this time, I know the moves, and understand the rules.

Writing: Such a lovely pursuit. You can do it in an easy chair, propped up in bed with a plate of Oreos. You never have to drive to practice. You can eat dinner slowly, as a family. There’s very little screaming, no buzzers, no jammed fingers or poked eyes. No way to lose. Darling daughter, that’s OUR kind of sport. Go! Go! Go!

Listen here if you'd like to hear the audio file from NPR.


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