FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: The Pick-up Game
The other day, due to a slight, but not atypical, miscalculation of time, I actually arrived early to pick my daughter up from her after-school program, Art Wizards. Most weeks, I arrive way early, as I forget that she has this class and get there at the usual time. She likes it when this happens. She smiles and shakes her head and waits for light bulb to pop on in my head. Then, I leave and come back in an hour. While I am rarely “late”, I am usually “right” on time. Normally, I trend towards a frenzied speed-walk due to near-tardiness, but on this day I managed a leisurely stroll down the sidewalk with my face aimed at the sun. I was 15 minutes early and I was going to enjoy it.
As I walked through the halls of Des Moines Elementary, I was peaceful and nostalgic. I smelled the “elementary school” smells: paste, oranges, floor wax, magic markers, glue and unwashed youth. It is a smell I remember well. They say the olfactory has the longest memory of our senses. I believe this to be true. Smells are time machines and can rise up and strike places in our minds and hearts that we can feel, viscerally. For this reason, I like the scent of elementary schools. I can go back, if only for a brief moment, to a much simpler time and I like simple times.
While standing in the hallway outside of my girl’s class, I looked out the window and noticed a couple of teenage boys playing basketball. I would guess they were 14 or 15. One was white and one was black and they were playing one-on-one. They were intense, but smiling. Fouls were called with a grin. Points were scored without any jersey pointing or in-your-face smack talk. These boys were just playing.
As the soft shadows of late afternoon began to fall across the playground, these young men played a game that they didn’t recognize as beautiful. I did. The represented the best parts of life and youth and sport. They played with a love of the game and each other. They were buddies sharing their best parts. They played hard, but fair, with a casual exuberance and joy. It was just a regular day to them, but to me it was special.
With time, we lose things. We lose, or at least misplace, the feelings these boys had. An afternoon spent playing hoops at the playground with a friend is hard to come by. We do lots of things, and many of them wonderful. However, we cannot put sand back in our hourglass’s and we can’t play with the same innocent and hopeful spirit of teenage friends on the playground court. We can remain optimistic and dream big and behave like juveniles from time to time. But we have lost the naïve, yet beautiful, luster of youth. We have seen too much. We have jobs and kids of our own to take care of. We have wives and obligations to tend to. We can’t enjoy things with the same carefree spark of youth. I am not complaining and there is much about adolescence that I am happy that I don’t have to repeat. But a solemn, late winter afternoon game with my best friend I would take.
This is not to be. And that’s ok. I will be content with watching through the dusty window, carving a sliver of what was from the kids playing the games. This will be enough and it reminds me, that through the constant buzz of my world, simple days exist and good kids exist and life has been and is still pretty damn awesome, even from the sidelines, recognizing a perfect moment.
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]