My Ball

April 18th, 2005

When I was about 12 years old, I realized that my childhood was slipping away and that I would soon be a teenager. I eagerly looked forward to the greater freedom that would come with growing up, but I also sensed that something was amiss. It was all happening so fast, I didn’t want to just abandon my childhood. There was something important about being a child. I couldn’t articulate it to myself; I don’t think I even realized it as clearly as I now realize it. But I knew that something was wrong, and I did something about it: I bought myself a ball.

It was a simple ball, brightly colored with gay designs, something straight out of a picture book of Tom, Jane, and Spot. It was about 4 inches in diameter and inflated rubber. It wasn’t a superball or a high-performance ball. It was a plain old ball. I used to play with it. Nothing special; no snazzy tricks, no basketball shots, no distance throws. I’d just bounce it against a wall and catch it. I never played with my ball in the presence of friends; it was always a solitary activity. It wasn’t mindless activity, either; I played small-child-ball with intensity and purposefulness. I took my ball to bed with me, too. It seemed the right thing to do. I never had a teddy bear while I was young. The ball wasn’t a teddy bear, but it just seemed like the right thing to do. So every night, I put the ball in my bed. My mother did not approve. She worried that this ball was somehow holding back my maturation. She tried to get me to throw the ball away, but I always refused. So one day she threw it away while I was at school.