MY LIFE - The sacred ball

MY LIFE - The sacred ball

Last week was a lively time here in the Powers household. My grandson JR was spending most of his much-anticipated April school vacation with me. Unfortunately, his New York City holiday schedule was out of sync with those of his local cousins, but we did our best to work around the glitch.

JR has spent enough vacation time here over the years that a well-worn pattern has been established. His car pulls into my driveway and he seamlessly steps from his NYC life, right into his Rhode Island life as soon as his foot hits the pavement. This time was no different.

His cousin Chris lives a scant mile from here as the crow flies, and he and JR literally spent every spare moment together, with Chris leaving only to go to school or home to sleep. His cousin Henry who lives in South County made it up on Sunday and again after school on Tuesday, but poor Liam was stuck down at Disney World with his family for the holiday weekend right through Monday and wasn’t able to get here for the rest of the week either, much to everyone’s chagrin. He was greatly missed, but the good times rolled along without him, aided by Jacob and Zachary, the boys next door who have also meshed well into the mix.

As usual, everyone arrived packing heat, armed to the teeth with an arsenal of Nerf guns, chasing each other from yard to yard, across the field behind the house and back again, shrieking and yelling to each other as boys often do, impervious to both the cold and the occasional rain. They love their Nerf guns. Once, when Liam was also here, he arrived so loaded down with Nerf guns of every size and description it took three trips from the car to bring them all in.

Recently, however, in addition to the Nerf wars, the boys have taken an interest in playing basketball at the schoolyard court conveniently located right behind my house. The basketball that lives in my sunroom year round had become kind of soft over time and although I stocked up on inflation needles, it was discovered that the pump I’ve had in the garage for years didn’t work anymore. Fortunately, this all took place while JR’s parents were still here.

“Tom,” I asked my son, “do you know if your old basketball is still on the cabinet downstairs?” It had been abandoned when Tom left home after college in ‘93 and although I remembered seeing it there for years, I wasn’t sure whether it might have found its way upstairs at some point. But in the whole kerfuffle about the broken pump and the ensuing trip to Walmart for a new pump and a backup ball, my suggestion about the ball downstairs went largely ignored, so I went down to look for myself.

Sure enough, there it was, just barely within my reach on top of the old metal closet that had once been Tom’s. It was dusty and had a flat spot on its bottom from years sitting undisturbed in one position, but I carried it upstairs like a trophy and explained to JR that this had once been his father’s. The thought fascinated him and the fact that it was also a Spalding was a plus. Not expecting much, Tom began to inflate the ball. Then he bounced it. It worked! JR thought it bounced even better than the sunroom Spalding did. He was fascinated by the whole thing, but when the guys were ready to go out to play, the old ball was left behind.

Later that evening, after everyone including his parents had left, he went back to the old ball, observing that you could tell the difference between the two balls because the old one had a logo on it not found on the newer ones. He also mentioned several times how special it was that this had been his father’s “when he was a kid.”

The boys went out to shoot hoops on and off all week long, and although he showed the old basketball to his cousin Henry and to the guys next door, explaining how it had once belonged to his father when he was a kid, it was always left right there in the living room.

On Thursday, when Tom came back to pick up JR, the kids were complaining that the sunroom ball had gone a bit soft and could Tom please drop what he was doing and inflate it again. Tom suggested they just use the old ball instead. JR looked a bit shocked as he said no, he didn’t want to use it.

“Why not?” Tom asked, pointing out the fact that it still worked fine.

After a bit more back and forth JR finally told his father he didn’t want to use it because, “that ball is sacred.”

Needless to say, this came as something of a shock to his father, but JR remained unmoved. It had been his father’s at least 30 years earlier, and to take it outside and play with it would just be wrong.

“Well what are you going to do with it then?” Tom asked.

I began to suggest “Perhaps he could get one of those trophy..” but Tom cut me off before I could even get the word “cases” out of my mouth, with what I could only describe as a stink-eye look and the clipped words “Don’t even say it unless you’re planning on keeping it here!”

That’s where the discussion stayed, but I’m afraid the discussion is also over as far as JR is concerned. Sacred it is and sacred it will stay. I have to say, though, that it pleases me to no end that my grandson holds something from his father’s boyhood so very dear to his heart.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.