Thursday, January 26, 2006

beautiful day--part four

It's hard to beat the beauty of Seattle Center's south fountain lawn during Winterfest--especially at night. Thousands upon thousands of white lights encrust the trees surrounding the expanse of grass, making you feel you've stepped inside a wedding, or coronation, or Camelot.

The grown-up me kept walking, but the girl inside stayed behind. She ran to the center of the circle, spread her arms wide, and spun herself dizzy before dropping to the grass below. I think she's still there on that lawn, still staring at all that white delight.

At the far end of the lawn sits a carousel. We stood for a moment and watched the blurry smiles of the riders as they passed by. Beyond the carousel, we saw flailing arms whizzing past an open window--skaters enjoying a spin around the Holiday Ice Rink. Though no snow dotted the ground outside, by leaning over the open railing and breathing in the icy rink air, I could almost pretend we lived in some wintry location, with weeks and weeks and piles and piles of dependable, billowy snow. I breathed as deeply as I could and let my imagination have its way.

Adults skaters clutched each other, or just the air. The tiniest of children skated around with the aid of a clever metal contrapion--the skater's version of a walker. Their faces said, "I'm doing it!" as they grinned at the onlookers. And they were.

We honed in on one interesting skater. The man was about 40, clearly new to skating, and dressed head-to-toe in hockey attire. Had he been sitting on a bench off to the side, clutching a hockey stick, you'd assume he was a bonafide team member. All that was lacking was the ability to skate, but with the rest covered, he'd finally turned his attention to that last pesky detail.

We found it difficult to break away from hockey man. But the chilly air had birthed a hankering for a latte, so we crossed the short distance between the rink and the Seattle Center House, and made a beeline for Starbucks. "One triple grande eggnog latte; one double tall reduced fat eggnog latte," we ordered. With the spicy concoctions in hand, we settled at a table outside Starbucks and dug around my backpack until we'd unearthed a can of smoked almonds and my sister's caramel corn. You'd be surprised how well almonds and caramel corn go with eggnog lattes. We sipped and nibbled and gawked at a sea of fascinating bodies and faces. We listened in on nearby conversations and shared one of our own. And when we'd eked every ounce of enjoyment out of that particular spot, we loaded up again and moved on.

Just feet from our table was one glassed edge of an enormous miniature train display. I've seen in year upon year, but I never tire of absorbing all those minute details--the cottony wisps of smoke arising from inch-wide brick chimneys, the Victorian shoppers frozen in mid-stride as they leave the town bakery, the matchstick-sized logs stacked in a farmhouse woodshed. The same longing crept over me that visits every time I take in that sight: I want to be four inches tall and living in that display. I want to enter the steps of the steepled church and ski down the wrongly-scaled mountain. I want to buy bolts of fabric in the mercantile and visit the elderly woman in the yellow clapboard house. I want to ride the train as it crosses beneath the bridge, and wave at the massive people ogling me and the other residents of Tinyville.

Dave, perhaps sensing I was about to break a rule and hop the glass enclosure, suggested we leave the train display and head back to Key Arena. I agreed with reluctance and shot a wistful parting glance at my people. But just a half a minute later, a new diversion caught my eye. The man behind the glass window at Seattle Fudge was working on a giant rope of pink taffy. We pressed up against the glass and watched him work. After a minute or two of hypnotizing rotations, he tugged the snaky rope off the stretcher/folder contraption and aligned it on the cutting/wrapping machine. That, too, was mesmerizing. Dave--who is a mechanical genius and could fix anything you set in front of him if you gave him silence and a half an hour--watched for a minute and explained how the wrapper worked. I have no idea how his eyes were able to slow time long enough to dissect and analyze those working parts, but I took him at his word.

We returned to Key Arena and took our seats, and watched the Sonics beat the Celtics, 118-111. And I have to say, I wasn't much impressed. They seemed ... nonchalant. I suppose when you make a couple million dollars no matter what you do, you lose the gumption to fight. They weren't hungry--not in the way that my son and his teammates were hungry, hours earlier. Not in the way that the man on the ice rink was hungry. Sometimes, getting what you want takes all the spark out of you.

But it didn't matter. The win didn't factor into my day, and a loss couldn't have marred one second of our time in Seattle. It had a been a perfect, memorable, beautiful day.

And now you've been there, too.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

meet brownie

Here she is:

A pensive moment. Whatever could she thinking about?


Monday, January 23, 2006

it's ... a book cover!

My other surprise this week: I got the cover for my next book. It was supposed to release in February, and then that was changed to June, and now I'm hearing August. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that it will be sometime in 2006.

What do you think?


it's ... a girl!

I planned on giving you the last installment on my mini-series this morning, but yesterday we discovered a new (and unexpected) addition out in the goat barn ... a new kidlet. She's the cutest thing you've ever seen--and just as soon as I get a free minute, I'll take and post a picture. She's the daughter of Blondie, and since she's a smooth mocha color with just one teeny swatch of blonde on her right side (a nod to Mom), it seems appropriate to call her Brownie.

So you won't find me in front of the laptop this morning. Instead, I'll be hovering out in the barn. I pretend I have to be out there to check the hay levels in the slatted bins, change the water, and lay fresh straw ... but the truth is, I just want to be out there with that little five-pound wonder.

Back tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

beautiful day--part three

We stood at a crossroads. If we walked straight, we could window shop along Seattle's Fifth Avenue. If we turned right, we could walk down to the waterfront.

Who wants to look through windows when you can walk yourself closer to the water?

We went right. On the nine block descent water-ward, we passed Fisher Plaza, which houses our local ABC news station. We passed a construction site, and railroad tracks, and the Old Spaghetti Factory. With every step, Puget Sound and Pier 70 came closer.

I wish I could describe the smells that tag along on such a walk. I wish I could post a link to those salty portals, those swirls of restaurant essence, and that peculiar freshness that occurs only when air has been scrubbed by a swift trip across Puget Sound. It's not possible ... so come visit me, and we'll go on a sniff walk together.

When we hit the walkway in front of Pier 70, we turned left and walked in search of fish. Yes, we'd only just dined on Dick's deluxe burgers, fries and shakes, but all the cheering, screaming and clapping we'd done at the Arena seemed to have consumed all that fuel. And when you're hungry, and walking along Seattle's waterfront, the only logical food choice is seafood.

Along the four-block route, we passed a cruise ship business, and had a brief, "We really should book a day trip to Victoria" discussion. I believe we had a similar, "We really should bring the kids down here for dinner" talk when we had passed the Old Spaghetti Factory, too. It's just the sort of companionable prattle you expect on that kind of stroll.

Ivar's seemed to have disappeared, but we found an Anthony's in its place. Though I didn't know what I wanted before we stepped inside, and despite the fact that I'm always the last to order because I debate my top five choices right up until the second the server turns to me, for some reason, I knew exactly what I wanted as soon as my eyes landed on that line of the overhead menu: Bay shrimp Caesar salad. Dave ordered fish & chips.

We took a seat near the window. While Dave watched scenes from Canadian football on the wall-mounted TV, I alternated between watching joggers pass the front windows, and the surprisingly swift motions of a ferry boat out the back window.

When the ferry passed out of sight, I turned my attention to the boats docked just below the restaurant decking. Several sported Christmas lights, which began to shiver in the growing wind. From the door of one two-decker, an old man emerged. He shuffled to the back of the boat and fiddled with something mechanical-looking. I watched his movements and wondered, as I stared, if this man had waited a long lifetime to land on this boat; wondered if he'd saved and dreamed until he made his ambition a reality.

In the midst of my pondering, the server brought our food. Oh, again for the technology to give you a taste! Just a small one, mind you. The shrimp was that-minute-fresh. The lettuce was crisp and green; the croutons garlicky and perfect. And I can't remember when I've had Caesar dressing that good. Little slivers of parmesan hid among the greenery, and two lemon wedges tucked to the side made my mouth water with anticipation. I squeezed one all over my salad and used one for my water. It was bliss, I tell you ... pure bliss. I could eat a salad like that every day for the rest of my life.

We lingered a long time, just enjoying the scenery and each other. We talked about things you don't get to in the normal flow of a day. Only when we noticed a couple huddling close on the walkway outside and saw the reason for their hunched over bodies--big gusts and tiny pellets of rain--did we stand reluctantly and put our coats back on.

The sky had been a beautiful gray when we'd made our walk down, but now the color had deepened to an ominous hue. To me, it was just as beautiful. We pulled hoods on and started back, only this time, we opted for a fresh route. We crossed the street and climbed two levels of stairs until we came to a landing between two high-rise buildings. Before continuing east, we paused for a moment and took in the view from a tucked-away sitting area off to one side. From that vantage point, we could see the burgeoning storm off-coast, and the flickering lights from a thousand boats, and the lights of the Seattle skyline. And as we turned to take our leave, a gust of wind brought a swirl of smoked salmon scent wafting upwards. I stopped in my tracks and pulled in the biggest lungful I could manage, memorizing the scent, the skyline, and the angle of the frenzied stoplights, pulled nearly horizontal by the strength of the wind. I can visit that moment again, any time I want to.

A few blocks east, we passed a Thai restaurant. As we neared, someone opened the door and released the smell of ginger chicken. We went a bit further and passed the along a hoppin' Mexican restaurant. Inside, a live band belted out traditional music. Just outside the door, little fingers of fajita scent beckoned.

As we continued walking, I warmed up to law-breaking. Though I'm a strict, follow-the-rules kind of girl, as in "We don't sample grapes at the grocery store," I quickly saw the wisdom of jaywalking. By the time we'd traveled six blocks in the rain, I was a seasoned criminal. It made me laugh, therefore, when we passed the Space Needle and I watched a teenage boy trying to get his girlfriend to cross against the light, and heard her protest, "You have to wait! We can't cross yet!" I pictured her caving in within minutes, and actually taking the lead before long.

It rained just enough that you could say you got to walk in the rain. It's very good for your hair, you know. I didn't mind it on my face, or bouncing off my windbreaker. It only added to the mood of the day.

Before I knew it, we'd reached the grounds of the Seattle Center again. We'd been a world away ... but we still had an hour to ourselves.



Friday, January 13, 2006

beautiful day--part two

He didn't see us enter Key Arena or traverse the stairs to a pair of close-up seats, but I saw him. There was my boy, warming up on Ray's home turf.

He looked good. He looked natural. He even looked comfortable, though I couldn't imagine how he pulled that off. Thousands and thousands of stadium seats--17,072 in all--faced that court, looking like an enormous avalanche of red plastic, frozen in mid free-fall. I think the seats alone would have unnerved me. But there was so much more. The backboards, clear and backed by nothing but space, gave the shooters no reference point. Instead of a gym ceiling overhead, a giant, multi-lighted mother-ship of a structure hung suspended and staring. Only the black-striped, orange globes in their hands offered the boys any sense of familiarity.

A whistle blew and warm-up ended. And then, as if this were an ordinary game and there was no simply no need for ceremony, the announcer called out the names of the two teams, listed the starters, and brought the game into play. Zac wasn't among the starters. He's okay with that. He's the new kid, the one who hasn't been playing with this group of boys for all their high school life; the one who came from a small private school that never gave thought to actually memorizing and running plays. Zac has had a lot of catching up to do. But he's getting there.

I waited through every moment of the first quarter, watching Zac, cheering his friends, scrutinizing the face and movements of his coach. My stomach began to churn as I noticed how frequently the opposing coach swapped players. Why couldn't our coach follow suit? A dormant fear--one that had sprung into being the moment I learned we got to shell out $26 for the chance to watch both MPHS and the Sonics, but which I'd tried to squelch--surfaced yet again. What if ... what if the coach didn't put Zac in? What if my son suited up, warmed up, and then spent the entire game holding the bench in place? Like mothers do (and a few fathers, too, I suspect) I rehearsed my greeting to the coach, should such an oversight be committed.

Thankfully, the specifics of my imaginary greeting need not be revealed. After uttering a prayer and asking God to sway the coach's thoughts--and head--toward my boy, that's exactly what happened. While I sat staring through sprinting bodies and blurry orange passes and watching Zac's face, and marveling at his ability to laugh with a bench buddy and cheer and not seem to care that he hadn't yet made his pro-basketball-court debut, it happened. An invisible hand took hold of Coach's head and turned it to the right. I watched his eyes traveling the line of waiting boys, watched his arm lift and his finger point at the boy at the end of the bench. Zac grinned, stood, and raced to the announcer's table, where he hunkered down and waited for the beckoning whistle.

I can't tell you everything he did (one stuff and four rebounds); nor can I tell you how much time he spent playing during that quarter and another appearance in the fourth (8 minutes, 42 seconds total), but I can tell you that my heart pounded like thunder and my throat ached with pride and I whistled so loudly at one point, the spectator sitting in front of me swiveled and stared.

We won. Dave--in charge of the camera--is still kicking himself that he didn't get a picture of the giant "Marysville--60; Everett--49" sign, but we won't forget. And when it was over, and enough time elapsed for one proud mother to knit six rows of her project and one sweaty boy to have himself a shower, Zac "The Stuffer" Woodward rounded the arena and swooped in for a hello. Not only that, he sat with us through the entire varsity game, reliving the glory and letting the reality of the day sink in a bit.

And then he was gone--off to meet the team, with whom he would hang out at Seattle Center while waiting for the Sonics game to start. Which meant Dave and I were alone. Alone in Seattle ... staring at three hours of freedom.

"Want to take a walk," I suggested?

He did.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

beautiful day--part one

I had looked forward to the day after Christmas for a couple of reasons. First, the 26th of December loomed as the first day of a much needed rest. It meant the shedding of several great weights: I'd be finished with a lengthy academic book edit and the writing of that book's study guide (the deadline of which coincided with Christmas Eve). I'd be finished with the transcription of another book. I'd have set my needle and thread aside, because the three sheep costumes I had offered to make would be not only finished, but already-worn and already-packed away. That meant the Christmas play would be behind me, and Christmas Eve, and the wrapping of waiting packages, and the bustle of a Christmas morning church service.

I couldn't wait for the 26th of December.

It wasn't all about putting that busy week behind me, though. I also couldn't wait for that day because an amazing thing had happened. Through an unbelievably swift turn of events in early November, we decided to pull our son from the private school he'd attended for four years and enroll him in public school (we'd made the same choice for our daughter at the beginning of the year). I won't go into the detail of why. I hinted at some of those reasons in a post last June that started a flurry of back-and-forth discussion. Suffice it to say, we held out as long as we could and in the end, we're certain we've made the right choice.

Zac, who set aside his interest in basketball not long after the events I wrote about Thursday and didn't pick them up again until 8th grade, worried about his eligibility on this new team. But within one week's time, we'd withdrawn him from the old school, registered him in the new, and watched as he tried out and made the high school j.v. team. And that team--along with the varsity boys--had been invited to play a near-town rival on the 26th of December ... in Key Arena, the home of the Sonics.

We couldn't wait. The morning of the 26th, I drove him down early to meet the team bus, stopping first to load him up with bananas, Gatorade and protein bars. After seeing him off, and checking on Tera (who got to spend the day with Aunt Tarri, Uncle Todd and the boys), Dave and I headed down to Seattle. We didn't take the direct route, though. First we stopped at Dick's.

If you live in the Seattle area, you know how mandatory a trip to Dick's is. (Think of it as our version of In-and-Out Burger--another fine and addictive eating establishment). I've yet to take in a Mariner's game or transport or fetch someone from the airport without exiting at 45th street in the U District (U being the University of Washington) and pulling into the parking lot of that happy orange drive-in. It doesn't matter if there's one line of six people or four lines of twelve people, you scoot yourself to the nearest and wait your turn. And if you're a good Seattle-ite, you don't hem and haw when you get to the window. You know your order. Ours is "three deluxe, three fries, five tarter, one chocolate and one vanilla shake." Dave eats two of the deluxes and we split the fries, but the tarter is all mine.

We bought. We ate. We moseyed down the freeway a bit and found a spot for our car near Key Arena (at only $5 for ten hours ... not a bad deal). Lugging a backpack full of water, homemade licorice caramels I'd made for Dave, and Tarri's famous, you-get-it-every-year-for-Christmas caramel corn, we walked toward the arena. We'd gotten through the green and red madness of the week before, and now we were free, with a whole day of enjoyment staring us in the face.

It's not a far walk to the arena. Maybe five minutes. And it takes you past the embarrasingly ugly Experience Music Project (the one blight on Seattle's landscape, if you ask me. Whenever I see it, I imagine that the designer procrastinated until the night before his drawings were due, threw a bunch of clashing colored globs on the page, and pretended he'd meant all along for it to turn out that way), past a few grassy areas, past the entrance to the Fun Forest (an arcade and carnival-ish area), and past the fountain.

It was when the fountain came in view that I switched roles. The free bird gave way to teary mom, and suddenly, this day wasn't so much about my catching a needed breath as it was about watching my son reach a milestone.

We'd sat together at the edge of that very fountain on a long-ago summer day, back when Zac was two-ish and curly-haired. The sun stroked our back and music--from a hidden CD player connected somewhere to a giant set of speakers--filled our ears. Zac watched the water in absolute silence, something that didn't happen often. I'd wondered at the time if he was just winding down from a full day of walking and nibbling, and that accounted for his stillness. But when the first piece of classical music drifted to an end, I discovered the real reason for his pensiveness. He'd been listening ... and enjoying.

Those tiny hands came together in applause, and he opened his mouth. "Good job!" he yelled. Tears had filled my eyes then, too.

His voice still echoes in my memories, but that boy with the long curly hair is now a tall man-child, who relishes his ability to tower over his mother and pretend to not be scared when I order my edicts. He still calls me Mama, but now he chops firewood for me, fills my gas tank and instructs me on everything from how I should parallel park to what's making a particular noise under the hood.

And on this day, December 26th, I was about to watch that child run the same courts that Ray Allen, Gary Payton, Shaquille O'Neil and Michael Jordan have run.

Good job, little boy.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

game boy

A week ago Monday, I experienced a day so perfect, so beautiful, that right in the middle of my bliss I snatched the nearest napkin and scribbled swift notes as fast as I could conjur them. I can't fit it all in one post. Too many observations came to mind, too many "must share" details. So I'm going to share that day in a series. Before I do that, however, I need to share a chapter from my book. This story is called, "Game Boy," and when you read the first part of my to-be-yet-named series, you'll understand why you needed this intro.

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"How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can't even count how many times a day your thoughts turn toward me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!" --Ps 139:17 (TLB)

"Let's go, let's go, let's GO!"

I sink further into my folding chair as the echoes assault my ears. I've only been in the school gym five minutes and already I'm claustrophobic. How does that happen in a room with a forty-foot ceiling?

Please, Coach, I beg silently, please don't yell at my boy.

"Zachary – we’re not here to skip around the gym. Grab a ball!"

He's yelling.

I began my silent pleading again, but this time I've bypassed the coach and gone over his head. Way over his head.

Oh, Lord – I can't do this. I can't sit here and watch the coach watch Zac who's not watching anything but that one crazy, flickering ceiling light. I can't sit here and wait for him to get in trouble. Please stop this. Make the coach be nice.

Something – maybe the Lord? – urges me to pick up my book and ignore the scene on the court.

I read twelve words, and then I hear his name again.

"Zachary! Hey, Zachary – what position are you today? You're a forward, a forward! That means you have to guard Alex. Do you want him to make a basket and have it be your fault?"

It's a rhetorical question, and not even directed at me, but I answer anyway. Of course not, Coach. I don't want that. I hope, briefly, that he hears my unspoken answer by proxy and lightens up. I know the truth, though. Zac wouldn't mind a bit if Alex got a basket. He happens to like Alex, and this happens to just be a practice game, for crying out loud.

The coach has words, warnings and lectures for the other boys too, but somehow I'm able to read my book past those echoes with no more than the slightest register. Every time I hear his lips forming a "z" sound, though, my eyes lock on his face. Time drops to its knees and crawls while I wait for the rest of the coach’s word, although there's no question, really, about who he's berating. There are no Zanes, Zekes or Zeds out there. Only my Zac.

Only Zac, for whom the gym floor is nothing more than an indoor skipping hopping galloping surface. Zac, for whom the painted black arcs and lines are imaginary tightropes. Zac, who tries every week to jump higher so he can see out the impossibly high windows. "Maybe I grew this week, Mom. You never know."

He revels in things sensory. When the coach calls them all to the center of the floor for a midget huddle, Zac tries hard to concentrate. He makes a fairly good showing, but I know – because I'm his mother and mothers know everything – that he's really thinking about how to get the loudest and longest squeal out of his tennis shoes the next time he charges down court. I know he's counting the kids and wondering if he should invite them all to his birthday party, even though it's four months away. He's noticing the dampness under his arms and formulating a really good argument for buying deodorant, one he'll try on me the moment practice is over. "Mom, when I get hot, my armpits get all yucky and horrible. It's time, Mom. I am eight now, you know."

The huddle ends. Zac collects his thoughts and makes an adult, "I mean business this time" kind of face. At least a portion of the coach's lecture permeated Zac's brain. I can see within the first ten seconds that he's made up his mind to be the world's best guard. Poor Joey. He doesn't stand a chance. As the white shirts take the ball down court, Joey discovers he's grown a second skin. He moves left. Zac moves left. He breathes. Zac breathes. He blinks, he spins, he runs. Zac follows every move, the perfect shadow, the perfect little mime. I feel the first sense of relief I've felt since entering the gym. Surely the coach will notice his doggedness and praise him for such tenacity.

The blue shirts get the rebound and head to my end of the court. Zac is still shadowing Joey. As little as I know about basketball, I know enough that I'm pretty sure it's Joey's turn to guard Zac. I'm all but certain Zac is supposed to be trying to get away from Joey now. But no. He follows Joey into a corner and continues his mirroring.

"Zac!" I whisper as loudly as I dare.

He's too busy guarding his own guard to notice.

I clear my throat and try a slightly more intense version of the first whisper. "Zachary!"

I notice with my peripheral vision that the father next to me has glanced over to see what is so urgent. Ignore me, I demand wordlessly. I'm just a crazy, overprotective mother trying to spare her son a little misery. That's it … go back to your sports page …


This time it wasn't me. It’s the coach. He noticed Zac’s tenacity, all right – but on the wrong side of the court.

"Why on earth are you doing that? You're supposed to be getting away from Joey! Look at Peter there. He's open. He's standing there waving his arms and making it easy for someone to pass him the ball. That's what you should be doing."

Zac nods his little 'yes, sir' nod. Invisible hands strap me to my seat, preventing me from marching out and giving the coach a piece of my mind. At this point it would be the last piece.

The coach blows his whistle. "You guys need to take this more seriously. This is serious business. No goofing off. This game counts! It COUNTS!"

Again with the intensity. What is he talking about? It's practice! I glance down the meager row of parents lining the court. I don't see any scouts. Even if there were – even if a whole bunch of scouts had snuck in, noticed Zac's prowess, and started a bidding war over him – I’d really have to insist that he finish third grade before signing any deals.

Zac gets the ball. He dribbles, stops, dribbles again, and shoots. It's short.

"Short!" the coach yells.

"We know!" I growl.

Sports page dad glances over. I consider asking him what the point of all this is. Am I supposed to just hand my son over to this … this … professional man maker and let him work his magical wonders? Is that it? Is this some sort of rite of passage intended to turn my humming, skipping, ball sharing boy into a serious competitor? And if so, why? So that someday he can become a sports page reading father himself?

Before I can begin my tirade, Zac gets the ball again. I hold my breath as he dribbles. He dodges Joey. He spins around Alex. He lifts the ball and shoots. All eyes follow the arch of the ball as it approaches the net and swooshes through.

A couple of parents clap. The coach yells again, but this time he's cheering, "Great shot, Zac!" He jogs over and slaps his hand. Zac grins. He'll carry that high five all week.

Me? I've been proud of him all along.

I talk to the Lord again. This time I'm not begging for intervention; this time I just need my Father. I tell Him how frustrated I am, how I don't understand how the coach won't understand that Zac can't understand what the big deal is.

I tell Him it's not a love of basketball that keeps my little boy getting up early on Saturday mornings – it's simply a love of being eight. It's the exhilaration of grabbing that beautiful bumpy ball and feeling the cool but stale gym air caress his face as he charges down the miles long floor. It's the chance to lounge against the back wall with two or three of his teammates, laughing together in fake tiredness while they fan their shirts and talk about the candy they have at home stashed in their p.j. drawers. It's all that. Nothing more.

God listens. And then He whispers.

He tells me He understands. He shows me, in a vast and indescribable moment of revelation, my own court in a game called Life. He points out His position, there on the side of the court, where His eyes never leave me and His heart beats in sync with mine.

He tells me how proud He is of me when I resist the pressure to become point minded. He tells me He loves it when I share the ball, when I don't mind someone else taking it down court, when I cheer for a teammate who finally gets enough coordination to dribble.

And He tells me to never stop. He tells me this game was made for His pleasure and as far as He's concerned, I can hop all the way down court if I want to.

He tells me I've already won.

"Mom? Mom!"

There he is. My sweaty little game boy, with flushed cheeks and one pink ear, a sure sign to me, his eagle eyed mother, that he's played hard.

"What, honey?"

"I have this problem. When I'm out there running and I get hot, my armpits get all buttery and slickerish. It's really horrible."

"Hmmm. I guess we know what that means," I say.

"Are you telling me … are you saying …"

"Yep. We'd better stop by the store on the way home. After all, you are eight now."

He hops all the way to the car.
*    *    *    

Next: The boy grows up and plays at Key Arena.

Excerpted from A Whisper in Winter: Stories of Hearing God’s Voice in Every Season of Life (New Hope Publishers, 2004). © Shannon Woodward.

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