Eight years ago, this journey began. Our twin boys were six and I initially just wrote about the cute stuff they did. In fact, the name of this blog came to be because one day I heard them chanting “ihopeiwinatoaster; ihopeiwinatoaster” over and over in the basement. Time passed, I tried to go a little deeper, say important things. However, those cute boys are in High School now and their stories are their own. So, what’s an old blogger to do? Well, I guess that’s what I am about to find out.
Friday, March 28, 2014
The Green Ball of Gratitude
I was going to do a lot of other stuff today. I had great plans, long meaningful lists, spellbinding, heartfelt stories. Perhaps a retrospective piece hot-linking popular posts here, assembling a beautiful collage of whimsy, hope, dreams and tears.
You see, this is my 300th published post. I was gonna drop some whopping numbers on you involving average word count per post, say a thousand, and how that would be about three good sized novels worth of words. I was also going to self-servingly mention the novel I wrote, and, well, basically, I was going to brag, "humble-brag" I think they call it these days.
I would have, too, except today is a windy day.
I am sitting in the dining room, my candle lit, my swollen head ready to impress you. I put my fingers on the keypad, look out into the yard to collect my deep thoughts and, well, this blows into view:
I stop typing, hang my head, sigh, and remember. I bought it in a whim, I doubt the boys were even two. They were with me at a grocery store, up there in front - in the double wide - and I wheeled them past, not even noticing the giant bin of "made in China" balls. The boys heard the siren sound that is a ball to boys and I got two, this green one and a red one, which met an early death at the blade of a lawn tractor.
But this guy... I would say this was the first ball they ever kicked outside. I know it was the ball I used to explain soccer and kick-ball. I know it was an integral part of the first game the ever invented on their own which involved two plastic hockey sticks, this ball, a fence and, oddly enough, a hickory nut... or was it a feather?
This ball has been imagined into everything from a cannon ball - basically any weapon ammo, honestly - to a damsel in distress high in the pine boughs in which it was stuck, the tree they eventually climbed, enticed by this little ball. I think I may have put it in the shed or the garage the first couple of years, but, for the last several it has been the only toy I have let just stay out. One spring I found it safely wedged in the opening of a tunnel under the shed, where Woody, the gopher/woodchuck dude is alleged to live. The boys imagined he used it as a door to keep out the wind and snow.
Imagine a back yard full of boys chasing, kicking, throwing this ball gallantly taking them all on. I remember four boys once throwing sticks like spears at it and the falling down laughter that followed as it blew across the yard seemingly trying to escape their unheeded assault. I've seen it fly over the fence and taunt a boy too little to climb a fence to, well, climb a fence. I talked him through it with tears in my eyes as the metaphorical fences fell and the future seemed bigger, because of one brave little ball.
After the assault of memories that flashed in the instant I saw the ball, I knew. I knew what I had to do. I wander out into the yard now populated with three and five and seven and two year-old boys, dancing, running, singing, kicking, growing and learning, and I look down on it and take the a picture of it from above. The color is off, there is no banana for scale, it seems lifeless, inert, and I know it is not. I kneel down in the muddy yard and I snap the picture with the playset and the rope-swing and the fence and the maple tree in the background. The ball is covered in a patina of dirt, slightly deflated, but somehow noble, decent, stalwart, proud.
I pick it up and it seems to sigh. Instantly I get it. This ball, over the years, through snow and rain and drought and mud and wind has done one thing, a sacred thing, an act of profound love - it has been available. I realize, choking back the familiar sob of deep understanding, that that is precisely what I have tried to do for them. I have tried to be available, weather the storms, be ready, be strong, be brave... be there.
So, there I am, standing in my yard of dreams, tears washing clean a dirty green ball and I do the most natural thing, the one thing the ball wants, the only gift of thanks I can give it... I kick it. It soars up and the wind embraces it and it sails much higher and much farther than it should have, over the fence, into another yard.
I go get it...
Thanks for being with me here, on this journey, I appreciate it. Be available for others today, everyday. Be a green ball, be the hope that is in the eyes of children and the truth that is at the soul of every hard-working toy ever made.
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I'm going to be bluntly honest here, Bill. I've read a lot today, perhaps more than I should have, considering that I should really be working on a journal article that is due next week. Of all those other things I've read, some made me chuckle, some made me mildly angry (miffed is a better word, I suppose), and some made the corners of my mouth turn up slightly in amusement.ReplyDelete
This made me truly feel something genuine, authentic, and full. As my eyes graced each word, they leaped off the page and landed in my mind, giving off a rich, full flavor, and I could literally feel myself in the moment, right along with you.
My kids have toys like that as well, toys that have been used to the point of an abused appearance - toys that have seen the best of times and the worst of times, and if they could speak, would provide a novella of interconnected stories rendering one speechless for fear of losing the magic of the moment.
You, sir, have captured that so poignantly here, and I can't wait to share it.
Thanks for coming around today, Dr. Misner. I mean that. You are a great champion of my little blog and I am grateful for that. Yes, "losing the magic of the moment" is a great fear of mine. It keeps me ever mindful, right?Delete
Very nicely done, Bill, you do more with words than you know.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Jack, very much. You are one of the best wordsmiths I know, so, hey, I'll take it. I appreciate you looking around the yard with me.Delete
Bill, your posts are the reason I haven't got a book under my own belt. I find I'm a more of a reader now than when I first launched my own blog and if I kept up the pace then 300 posts would be my own milestone. But I am drawn to reading YOUR blog. Further, I am drawn to reading those other ones you recommend, because if they are half as good as yours, they are worth reading.ReplyDelete
As profound as this piece is, as touching a part of my soul that recognises that I too have a green ball of my own laying somewhere in my own yard, your writing always draws me in to believe that I am standing there beside you.
And then your use of whimsical lines such as banana for scale add that other part I love about being able to converse with you; your sense of humour.
Congratulations on reaching this milestone. I'm sure that the next 300 will be as enjoyable to read as the last.
You are standing right next to me. That is the exact feeling for which I strive. Thanks for standing with me... kick that ball over this way, won't you? No, the green one...Delete
Our green ball is blue. Or maybe our green ball is the red one, I do not know yet.ReplyDelete
This post just encapsulates the essence of so many things, forming a cogent reply is difficult. Bravo sir is perhaps all I can say.
Your boys are lucky yo have that ball. I think the ball would say its the lucky one though
The ball as much to confessed to that, Seamus. Yes, there is a green ball in all our hearts, perhaps. Thank you for coming around and leaving a note, I appreciate your time.Delete
banana for scale = funny!ReplyDelete
Yes, Mr. Vandrop, always funny. Thanks for poking around here, always nice to hear from you.Delete
Your work is inspiring, as always, Bill. Beautiful language, and you've captured exactly what I think it means to be a dad: I'll do my best to be here any time you need me.ReplyDelete
Yes, availability. It works with adults as well, and dogs, and cats... and grimy green balls. Thanks for taking a look today, Sean, I like having my peers take a look around my old, tired "toaster."Delete
Can't get rid of that sucker - apparently it's meant to continue the journey with the Peebles crew. I think you got your money worth many times over.ReplyDelete
Nice piece Mr. 300.
Thanks, Larry. I am always glad when you stop by my humble corner on these innerwebs. It's true, I'll never want to get rid of that sucker, but, that's why I do this, to remember these things.Delete
This was truly a touching post. Vivid, real, meaningful. Thanks for sharing your world today.ReplyDelete
Excellent post Bill. You're green ball is my hockey puck and you've gained another fan today. Gonna spend some time going back and reading more later today. Glad I found this.ReplyDelete
A great way to celebrate 300 posts. Poignant, insightful and heartfelt. Thanks for the laughs and the great read.ReplyDelete
Your swollen head always impresses. 300 thank yous for being so available to US!ReplyDelete
I've bookmarked this in my phone for days when i've felt disconnected and I love reading about the little green ball and it helps remind me to be available. Though it seems so simple I loved how you painted the pictures of your boys in that backyard and all the fun they had with that ball which at the time probably seemed like an afterthought but became so much more. Great post!ReplyDelete
Congratulations on your 300th post, Bill. That is a huge achievement! It's been fun watching the boys grow up through your eyes this past year.ReplyDelete
Bill - I wholeheartedly agree with all the people who have said that you've providing a beautifully written and really touching account of what it means to be a dad. It's sometimes things that seem really simple that are actually really special. Congratulations on reaching your 300th post!ReplyDelete
Excellent point of view. I someday wish to be like you and that green ball when my kids are olderReplyDelete