I’m sat on the floor giving a squirming Junior a drink when the gymnasium doors open. What appears to be close to 100 youths, pile into the echo filled room. Within seconds, pristine Air Jordans are squeaking about me. I almost get swallowed up inside someone’s coat before husband peels the two of us off the floor and over to the other side of the bleachers.
Boy looks on, his eyes as big as the balls he was just bouncing. This is basketball practice New York style. Only minutes earlier the huge room was filled with the dulcet tones of the coach and her handful of hopefuls. The beauty of Boy’s three main teachers – including this new addition – is not lost on husband, who mutters something about Boy going three for three, before I roll my eyes. Further along on the bleachers another dad scrutinizes the female coach’s delivery (or, in his opinion, lack thereof) of suitable drills. They’re mumbling something about correct ball size and technique but I’m concentrating on the baby on my lap who is almost bouncing off it with excitement.
Boy is in full costume, sorry, uniform. It drives husband to distraction the way he insists on wearing suitable outfits for any sporting activity, even at home. I take full credit for dress up and make no attempt to hide my delight in Boy marrying make believe with the science of sport. Now he dribbles, two little candlesticks for legs poking out of his Syracuse Orangemen outfit, following instructions from coach like he’s just been chosen for the NBA all-star team. Dad number two, comments on Boy’s use of left hand and husband’s chest peacocks out a little further. He’s already got him penned a point guard. Every 5ft nothing man’s dream.
Inspired by Boy’s insatiable love of learning this mum decides to take herself back to school. Scouring the Internet I find a writer’s class that takes place at a literary agent’s office. My first day nerves are allayed when I arrive to discover that the workshop leader is a sensible Buddhist who had been a lawyer, geologist and fisherman before his current incarnation as writer and agent. Four hopeful writers sit around the meeting table and pick through each other’s work. Our tutor then produces a typed out critique of our submissions with solid, incisive advice. He laughs at the way I accept my crits with perverse joy. I explain that making the odd mistake is quite liberating – you can only improve. I am more comfortable with hearing and dealing with criticism than a bucket of praise any day. Some British habits die very hard indeed.
The next day, our family receive an invitation to Boy’s publishing party at school. I suddenly feel the weight of a decades’ worth of procrastination. The kid only learnt to read a month ago and he has a book out. No better way to inspire the author’s mama that’s for sure. It’s a short work I’m told, dedicated to the entire family (ever the diplomat). He asks me if mine has pictures, if I had to write it out in best and when will it be finished. Husband chortles from behind the kitchen counter. “Hopefully before another ten years is up,” I say, glowering at my better half, before I scurry back to my keyboard. Just like the writer I hope I can become….