Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hunter scored and the crowd went wild

Last weekend, with an hour’s notice, I jumped into my car and headed north to visit my family in DeSoto County. I haven’t seen them since Christmas, and I was starting to have withdrawals, and I was suffering from a lack of family stories to write.

Accompanied by my three dogs (I knew better than to ask, so I decided to ask for forgiveness instead), I arrived in Southaven around 7:30 p.m., and ended up catching up with my parents until nearly midnight. Momma and Daddy had so much news to report about the neighborhood, the church, and current events in town, I went to bed trying to process all of the information.

However, the big news was my nephew, Hunter, and his church league basketball team being invited to play a jamboree at FedEx Forum in Memphis where the University of Memphis Tigers and the Memphis Grizzlies play. For a nine-year-old, the chance to step on the same court as NBA stars like Shaquille O'Neal, Mike Miller, and Kobe Bryant was a dream come true. So on Saturday afternoon, the entire family packed up and invaded the FedEx Forum to watch our kid play.

Now, I will admit my family dotes on Hunter. He is the only grandchild and the only male child in our family. Daddy, who was smothered by estrogen his entire life (he was the only boy with three sisters as well as giving birth to three daughters), finally found someone to share a little male bonding. I can safely say he is spoiled rotten – I fondly refer to him as Beelzebub.

Nine-years-old-going-on-thirty, Hunter has been surrounded by adults his entire life. His playmates have always been more than 20-years his senior, and he would rather have lunch with my sisters and me than go on a play date with a friend.

He is all Sexton with a dry sense of humor, and a flare for the dramatic. When I told him I was moving to Winona, he asked Momma if he would ever see me again. Then on moving day, he realized it wasn’t that far of a drive and relaxed.

“I like your moat,” he said. He was speaking of Winona’s drainage ditch that runs throughout the town. I corrected him and told him it was a brook (sounds better, right?)

Dressed in his navy blue uniform with “Upwards” emblazoned across his chest, Hunter and his team, The Rockets, took the floor of the forum. The family – as well as Hunter’s favorite cousin, Mason -- occupied an entire row just above the hardwood, and we were poised to show our support. The Grizzlies announcer began naming the members of each team, and Hunter’s name echoed through the enormous 15,000 plus seat arena.

The teams tipped off and began to move across the floor with the squeaking of sneakers on hardwood. Almost an entire quarter passed before a player on either team scored because the goal was a foot taller than what they were accustomed. The players just needed to gather their bearings and get into a groove.

His team struck first. Then again. The other team came back with another goal. Then low and behold – I had been praying he would – Hunter took a shot. He scored. We went wild!

I will just say that everyone in the FedEx Forum knew whom we supported. Hunter was so excited, he didn’t even feign embarrassment. A smile was plastered on his face for the rest of the game.

Sunday, I packed up to head home to Winona. All three dogs were wound around my legs and bouncing from chair to couch to chair. My parents both hugged me goodbye. Momma told me she would be in Winona next Sunday, and Daddy warned me to be careful.

“Love you,” he said. “And don’t forget the dogs.”

Snowballs, brownies, and friends: The best night 'evah'

Montgomery and Carroll counties were visited by an infrequent guest this weekend - snow, and just like the children in the community, my thirty-something friends and I jumped into the fluff with all the gusto of a nine-year-old.

At dusk on Friday, large, puffy flakes began to fall, but to my despair, they did not stick to the grass or sidewalks or rooftops. I thought Mother Nature was playing a cruel joke, and went about my Friday night as planned. My significant other, Keith, and I joined our friends, Jeffrey and Keetha, for a night of cards, and we completely ignored (totally disgusted) the light falling of snow outside.

For the next several hours, we focused our attention on our game of spades. Keith and I lost, by the way, and now I am torn whether or not to give up the game completely. (I am such a bad sport!). The only saving grace of the evening was a pan of homemade brownies prepared by Keetha (she is Winona's cookbook author) that were so fantastic, I decided they were my new best friends. As Keetha would say, “They are the best things ‘evah’.”

Around 11 p.m., we decided to call it a night, and walked outside to leave. Winona had been covered with a thick frosting of white powder, and it was steadily falling in quarter-sized flakes. All four of us were enamored by the substance - immediately wanted to hold it in our hands and catch it on our tongues. However, our moment of tranquil splendor was cut short as a snowball struck me in the back of my neck and ran down my back. I am sure my scream woke the neighbors as snow was caught between my sweatshirt and bare skin. Keetha and Jeffrey just kind of stood there in shock - trying to comprehend what had just occurred.

Behind me, Keith was forming a second snowball and sent it spiraling into the side of my head. War, I tell you! It was war!

With Jeffrey and Keetha on my side, it was three against Keith. As we gathered snow to form our own snowballs, he continued to pelt the three of us with snowball after snowball. He climbed on top of my truck where the snow was thick and fresh and where he had an advantage over enemy (think Union soldiers firing on Confederate troops as they climbed the hill at Vicksburg). At one point I started looking for rocks to pack inside the snow which I know was not very Christian of me.

Finally, after a 10 minute battle and a complete numbing of my hands, I called a truce. Keith may have won the battle, but trust me, I will win the war. I am currently working on my strategy (non-snow), and will meet up with Keetha and Jeffrey to discuss the infantry.

Regardless of coming up short on my snowball skills, I have never had more fun. As I drove home, only adults were seen playing in the snow (I guess it was contagious). Isn't that always the case?

A couple of years ago, snow and ice came to Mississippi, and my family jumped right in to play with my nephew, Hunter. It was his first snow. After about an hour, Hunter was cold and tired and wanted to go inside. Of course, at that time, my sister, Stephanie, and I had taken Hunter's go-cart through the neighborhood - making donuts and taking curves on two tires. When we finally returned to the house, a smile was literally frozen on my face, and we thought it was going to take warm water to dislodge Stephanie's hand from the roll-bar. But it was totally worth it!

Isn't it funny that as we get older the more enjoyment we get out of acting like children?

For example, Hunter got a trampoline for his birthday a few years back. As Daddy and my brother-in-law put it together, memories of jumping on my cousins' trampoline came flooding back. We would jump for hours - making up routines, new combinations (flip, back flip, knee drop, seat drop), and of course, my cousins' karate competitions.

My cousins would beat the snot out of each other for hours in these so-called karate competitions. They always took things way too far, and ended up getting into a real fist fight before it was over. Once, one of them went for an axe in the shed to finish the fight. Only a small amount of blood was shed in the end. All I know is my sisters and I were paralyzed with fear on the picnic table during the entire event.

When Hunter got his trampoline, I forgot all the violence and only remembered how much fun we had. This, of course, was not reality for someone nearing 30-years-old. Jumping on the trampoline is serious exercise - running-a-marathon-type of exercise.After about a minute, I thought I was about to have a heart attack! I am certain at one time I felt a true-blue palpitation!

Oh, the joy of getting older. Now with the early signs of crow's feet and a bad back, I needed the snow. I needed to remember what it was like before bills and deadlines and tax returns. I needed to remember a time when the most important thing in life was waiting my turn to play.