Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
Knit caps bearing the professional football logo of the Pittsburgh Steelers were tucked into half of the stockings hung by the chimney with care at my sister’s home. Her husband is a former college basketball coach who now runs a tennis store, and her oldest son is a volleyball coach at a Tennessee university. Middle son is a former soccer player who just participated in a Florida “Tough Mudder” obstacle marathon with son-in law, a high school baseball coach in Georgia married to youngest daughter, a high school volleyball coach.
I like sports. I played basketball in high school, my signature move being stealing the ball and tearing down the court to miss the lay-up. Wilt Chamberlin once scored 100 points in a game in the sports arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where I grew up—reportedly after a night of drinking and partying. A decade later during a regional tournament in the same place, I scored two after a full night of sleep. I played both basketball and volleyball at my Maine college, won a winter bobsled race and was a summer camp water-ski instructor, and had a brief but disastrous career as a lacrosse player.
So, I do like participating in sports. But I don’t so much enjoy talking about them or watching multimillionaires play them on TV. I’ve stopped checking my watch upon arrival at my sister’s to see how quickly the conversation among my beloved family members turns to the latest professional baseball trade or NBA standings. But this holiday visit, as always, it was a matter of only minutes.
The day after Christmas we were just finishing dinner, with the energy clearly moving from talking about sports to gathering around the TV for Monday Night Football, when my 3-year-old great-niece Savanna looked across the table and said, “Uncle Jesse, do you have a funny story you could tell me?”
Middle son thought for a moment and then launched into an entertaining tale about the water battle that erupted inside their house the first time my sister and brother-in-law left oldest son Travis in charge of his younger siblings. Savanna giggled at the thought of her now-grown father, uncle, and aunt blasting each other with squirt guns while the parents were away.
Then she turned and said, “Aunt Kaitlyn, do you have a funny story you could tell me?” Savanna eventually made her way around the table, with all nine of us adults getting a turn. We remembered the time my mother, absent this year for the first time from our family Christmas circle, took her grandchildren sledding and ended up in a creek. Much to Savanna’s delight, I recounted the time I rode a horse upside down when the saddle slipped.
When I finished, my wide-eyed great-niece looked at me and said, “Aunt Joyce, do you have another funny story you could tell me?” It warmed my heart wildly when her father said “Aunt Joyce used to tell us great bedtime stories every night when she came to visit” and his younger siblings began listing the colorful cast of characters that populated my adventurous tales set in the Grand Canyon. I had no idea they remembered.
A couple of hours later, some guy from New Orleans named Drew broke a passing record that had stood for 27 years. I suppose that’s some sort of accomplishment. But history was made at our dinner table.