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.”