Thursday, February 27, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 27)

On the weekends, the boys usually get out of bed without any prompting. They typically park their butts on the family room couch around 7 a.m. to watch TV. This morning, though, we all slept in until 8 o’clock. Andy had the best reason for staying in bed. The Tri-County basketball league tournament started yesterday, and Middleton played two games. Eight teams, the best four teams in the two 5th grade leagues, participated. Our guys won their first game, which started at 5:30 against Stoughton, 51-37, whom they had already beaten twice in the regular season, both of them hard-fought victories. If you recall from my previous report, Middleton won the first match-up 31-30 in overtime. In game two last night, Middleton played a Waunakee team from the other league, a small (in height) team with a reputation for scrappiness . It was a very close game until the 4th quarter. Middleton looked very sloppy in the third quarter, turning the ball over 9 (!) times. They weren’t running their plays, just dribbling down the court and taking questionable shots. The final score, 38-27, gives little indication of what an exciting game it was. 

As a result of their two victories yesterday, Middleton will play in the tournament championship today at 1:30. Andy told us on the drive home that one of the players on the Stoughton team told him that, “You guys are gonna go all the way.” If Middleton wins today, their record will be 17-1. They’ll probably be considered one of the favorites going into next weekend’s tournament in Oregon. (The suburb of Madison, not the state. Andy and his teammates haven’t reached that exalted state yet!) 

Our snow cover has disappeared as a result of the rain we received yesterday. Looking out the window to my right, I can see a few very small patches here and there. The sky is gray, making it the kind of day when I consider what household chores I want to tackle. Last weekend JoAnna went through her closet, discarding what many people in this world of ours would consider a lifetime wardrobe. I dropped off two fully packed black garbage bags at the Goodwill donation box before going to work on Monday. Now, I suppose, it’s my turn. There are quite a few clothes in my closet that I haven’t worn in years. 

I’m surprised I didn’t start out today’s portion of the letter with this BIG news. Albert called us last night at 10:45 to announce the birth of Julianna Marie Richard. 7 pounds 9 ounces. 21 inches long. Obviously, she’s already taking after her mother. Cyndi’s doing great. I guess it wasn’t the easiest of deliveries, but they also experienced no complications. JoAnna is especially pleased with the name. I know you’d at least like to send them a card of congratulations, Mom, so here’s their address: 
1936 Dakota Street 
Leavenworth, KS 66048 

JoAnna plans to fly out to Pennsylvania on Easter weekend for the christening. The boys and I have other plans. \

Our vacation to Washington, D.C., has been canceled due to JoAnna’s new job. Since I’ve already taken the week of spring break off, the boys want to do an instant replay of last year. We’ll leave Middleton on Friday afternoon, March 26th, and stay in a motel with all the amenities that the boys enjoy in the South Bend or Fort Wayne area, then arrive in Warren on Saturday afternoon, where we’ll stay through Wednesday. Before returning home, we’ll spend a couple days in Chicago. I wanted us to make the trip to Warren at this time because, our summer schedule, due to the boys’ baseball activities, the Richard family reunion in Louisiana, and Andy’s football practices, already seems to be filled up. 

A headline in today’s New York Times caught my eye as I was paging through it. “6 Doctors Charged in Abuse Of the Mentally Retarded.” The dateline: Franklin, Pa. Must be the Polk State Hospital, I figured, although the news article referred to it as the Polk Center. I immediately recalled a field trip to this institution that took place during my senior year in high school. For some reason, which I could never quite figure out, it was part of our year-end Advanced Biology curriculum. Maybe our teacher, Mr. Walker, wanted to sensitize us to people with disabilities, to those less fortunate than us. Why we had to travel the 60 miles to Franklin instead of a few miles to North Warren is a question, I suppose, that will never satisfactorily be answered. I often wish I had kept a journal during my high school years. I started one in April of 1965 while I was a 9th grader at Beaty and continued it through mid-December of that year. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that journal writing became a regular part of my life. I truly regret the fact that I discontinued this practice after eight months. My senior year, especially, would have provided me with a motherlode of material. The only thing I did then was to note briefly on the back of a small Audubon desk calendar what I did socially.

Mike, me, at Mod’s. 
Mike, Mod, Barb, me, Valley of the Dolls. 

For some reason, I didn’t note the trip to Polk. And, for example, even though I noted that I watched the UCLA-Houston NCAA championship basketball game, I didn’t acknowledge the fact that I had invited most of the 4th period, senior-guys lunch table to our house. That was in the days when TV didn’t schedule these sports events to accommodate Eastern Time Zone lifestyles. “Our” tip-off time was 11:00 p.m., which, on this particular night, fit our schedule like a glove. A group of us (BT, Pig, Ears, Squirrel, Mac, Punk, Pat, me) went to see Bonnie and Clyde at the Library Theater and met up with the rest of the gang at a high school dance. Is this late night house party something you remember, Mom? My most prominent memory is that we were making too much noise, even after closing the sliding door we used to have at the landing of the stairs to the second floor.

Is there something about approaching 50 that puts a person in a reminiscent mood? Or does it have to do more with what I read? I have to admit that I enjoy reading the Warren paper on a regular basis, and that many of the articles unlodge long-dormant memories, an example of which I have just shared with you. As much as I enjoy my career as a librarian, I frequently wish I had the time to take a more disciplined approach to writing. 

Later that same day 

What a game!! What an intense game we saw this afternoon!! The fans were as exhausted, as wrung out as the players. 

The championship match-up featured Middleton and Sauk Prairie, the team that tagged us with our only loss of the season. The gym was filled with a crackling electricity even before the opening tip-off. Neither team was in control during the first quarter. After an exchange of three baskets each, the momentum went in Sauk’s favor, our team turning over the ball or making questionable shots. Middleton was down 10-6 at the end of the first quarter. We came alive during the second quarter, Andy helping the cause with an aggressive grab of an offensive rebound and a quick shot off the backboard – just like Mom always tells him to do. At the end of the first half, Middleton led 19-15, the fans in our section of the bleachers on their feet, screaming their approval. The third quarter, though, tested our patience. Each quarter is seven minutes long, and when five minutes had elapsed, the score was still 19-15. Neither team could get the ball anywhere near the basket. Sauk managed to score 2 points in the last minute, so we went into the final quarter with just a two-point lead. Two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter, the score was 21-19, in Sauk’s favor. I could feel drips of sweat running from my armpits down the side of my body. Almost ten minutes and our team hasn’t scored a basket. Are we jinxed on this side of the court? I wondered along with everyone else rooting for Middleton. Suddenly the team caught fire, and Sauk seemed to lose their intensity. Sauk’s big guy (picture someone Andy’s size but 30-40 pounds heavier) got into foul trouble and couldn’t play his usual aggressive style. With Middleton leading 29-25 with less than a minute left, the fans were still nervous. Then out of the blue, there’s Andy on a fast break, five feet from the basket all by himself. Johnny Strnad throws him a half-court pass, which Andy fields smoothly, and lays up an easy two points. In our section of the bleachers, we’re on our feet again. That seals it, we’re all thinking. Sauk turns it over with a travel violation, but then they make it difficult for our guys to inbound the ball. Instead of trying to throw the ball in away from the basket, Johnny breaks toward the basket and Ross throw him a perfect pass. Two more points. Final score 33-25. Middleton scored 6 points in the final minute of the game to seal a hard-earned victory. Looking around the stands, I had to chuckle to myself. Is my face as flushed as the other parents’? We seemed to have more color in our faces than the guys who were running up and down the court for 28 minutes. Everyone talked breathlessly about what an exciting game we had just seen. We were very proud of our boys, especially since two members of the team weren’t able to play, one due to an ankle injury and another to a karate tournament. The coaches had limited substitution opportunities. 

I wish I had a video of this game to send you. I think you’d be amazed at how well a group of 5th graders can play basketball. I’m sure for Andy this has been the most rewarding of his many sports experiences. It certainly has been so for his parents.

Folding laundry has always been an indicator of where I am as a parent. Earlier in the this decade, I would hold up a piece of Andy’s clothing and think, “Look how small this shirt is.” Now I have trouble separating his socks from mine, his sweatshirts from JoAnna’s. Watching your children grow up is certainly a source of mixed emotions. I’m just happy to say, as ridiculously corny as it may sound, a sentiment that Hallmark would probably reject, that I love my boys more with each passing day. And on that note, I’ll conclude this letter.

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