About Me

Thanks for being here! I am a mom of three (two girls, 15 and 13, and one boy, 9) and a teacher of many (thousands during my more than 17 years teaching high school English and Spanish in Philadelphia). Forever a student, I love learning - whether through talking to others, reading, watching movies and documentaries, or traveling. I also love running (slowly), hiking, and practicing yoga!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lessons from Fifth Grade Basketball: Nothing is Impossible

Grace had a basketball game tonight. They had played this team before, in the first game of the season, and lost 36-5 (this is their first year in the "A Division," and let's just say it hasn't been a walk in the park). "Mom, we're doomed," Grace said to me before the game, as she was filling her water bottle in the kitchen. Grace is about as competitive as you get, but losing multiple times by more than 20 points has a way of making a realist out of you. But doomed?
"I love watching her play." -my mom

"Wait a second!" I laughed. "I know it's going to be a tough game, but at least believe you have a chance. Your team has gotten a lot better since that first game!"

Grace was silent for a moment, and then, not sounding convinced, conceded, "OK. Nothing is impossible." Still, we both knew it was highly improbable.

The rain poured down as we drove to the gym and ran inside, shivering, but inside was cozy, and Grace and her teammates warmed up enthusiastically, despite the doom that lay ahead (in addition to having lost 36-5 before, this time they were missing one of their best players, Grace's good friend Ava). 

And then, the game started. Here we go, I thought. The other team looked tough. 

But then, something happened. We made the first shot, and then another. We were tough, too. 4-3, 5-3, 7-3, 9-3, 9-4 ... my texts to Anthony (who was home with Joseph and Genevieve) and my dad (who was taking my cousin back to school at Ursinus) became more and more enthusiastic. And, well, while I know this is just fifth grade basketball, it is also, like all sports, so much more as well. When Grace stole the ball and raced downcourt to make a basket and bring the score to 11-4, I realized, with astonishment, they actually might win this. And, though it would have been just a tiny little miracle in a tiny little gym in a tiny little town, it would have been just the little miracle that my heart needed tonight. 

Sometimes the impossible becomes possible, I thought. Sometimes you win when you don't think you can. 

After my mom died last year, I stood up and spoke at her service on April 11th.  That morning, I told the story of a different basketball game, a terrible, unfair game that Grace had lost. It was the last one my mom was able to attend. 

"My mom ... came to many of [Grace's] travel basketball games this winter, despite how she was feeling. Just two months ago she was at a heated basketball game of Grace’s, as both of the teams were undefeated coming into it. The other team was extremely rough, and obnoxious, and the ref wasn’t calling anything. Finally, when the ref didn’t call perhaps the 5th time that a girl on the other team blatantly pushed down one of Grace’s teammates, my mom couldn’t hold it in any longer: 'Come on ref!' she screamed, 'Call the foul!'." (full eulogy posted here: http://nanadays.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-mom-and-truth-adoption-and-otherwise.html)

Though I was telling the story to describe my mom's competitive spirit, I think for a long time I've also thought of that game as a metaphor for my mom's fight with cancer. It wasn't fair, and in the end she lost. It made me angry. It made me feel as though God weren't there, calling the fouls.  

So tonight was a chance to change the metaphor. And I realized that that bird of hope in my heart 
(my heart, which is protected now as it never was before by a thick wall of realism) still flutters about, wanting to believe the impossible. You can win the game. You can beat the cancer

I could practically feel my mom sitting there beside me tonight, cheering Grace on. "Sometimes, when I am watching Grace play and she breaks away and is sprinting downcourt, I am only in the moment and nowhere else," she told me last year. "It is my goal to have as many of these moments as possible." 

My mom would have loved the game tonight. 11-8, 18-14, 20-16, 20-20 and Grace, racing downcourt, trying to make the winning shot (time ran out). The girls found themselves in overtime, and even went up 21-20 at first, but in the end the other team was just too tough.

26-21. Going to cry, I texted Anthony at 6:15, moments before the game ended. Be strong, he texted back (and then, a few minutes later: Give G a big hug for me, and don't forget the milk). 

In the end, there were no miraculous wins tonight, but I have a new metaphor nonetheless. We all want the impossible, and that's ok. Sometimes it even happens. Miracles abound. But when it doesn't, when the game's unfair, or just too tough, if you can meet the buzzer racing downcourt, taking a shot, well, then ... 

Grace at Whole Foods. "I think it was my best game."
After the game, Grace and I went to Whole Foods for the milk, and we sat down to eat something, too. She relived a few of the painful missed opportunities of the game, but overall she was feeling pretty good about herself. In fact, she probably handled the loss better than I did. "I actually think that was my best game yet," she said. I agreed.

I wish she could have won -- because she played so tough, and because she deserved to as much as anyone (and, oh, Mom, in this metaphor, of course, you are Grace, and I am me) -- but I agreed.

Mom, July 2013, in her "Life is good" t-shirt. It might not be fair, but it is good.