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Hoop Dreams

While I’m not usually sentimental about “stuff,” I’ll admit that sometimes, it can be difficult to part with things, no matter the shape they’re in, or how long it’s been since they were last used.

Lately, Joan and I have been taking stock of our possessions, evaluating what should stay and what can go. Maybe it’s the next logical step in our lives, after we’ve spent so many years accumulating stuff – most of it useful at one point in time; some of it now simply in the way – and holding on to it “just in case” we might need it again or maybe one of the kids will want it for their next apartment.

(NOTE: In this scenario, “just in case” is the excuse we use when fond memories enter the picture, even though we know something has overstayed its welcome.)

We’ve been approaching this project in small chunks – primarily on weekends -- which for me, is always the way to do it. Trying to tackle a project like this all at once becomes daunting and overwhelming. So, one morning not long ago, Joan cleaned out the foyer closet, which had become a clearinghouse for “never-worn” pairs of shoes, board games and old jackets, among other random items. That same morning, I tackled one section of the basement, triaging the importance of things like old clothes, books, small containers and furniture that had accumulated through the years.

For each phase of the project, whether we tackle it together (like the part of the basement where the washer and dryer live, a place where “a little bit of everything Haznaw” resides -- old photos and trophies, vases, art supplies, puzzles, luggage, paint cans, you get the picture), or as solo acts (Joan working on our bedroom closet while I hunt through what lives and lurks above the rafters of the garage), we divide and dispose of the items using the standard “keep/trash/recycle/donate” protocol.

Sunday, after Joan and I had completed the phase mentioned above (the area adjacent to the washer and dryer), and I had made several trips to the garbage and recycling bins and driven to Goodwill with a back seat and trunk teeming with items looking to be rescued and given a new home, I stood in the living room, looking out at our driveway.

Sometimes, when I finish a project, I like to sit on the porch for a few minutes, to relax and take in the accomplishment or evaluate the experience in my mind. Sunday, too cold and windy to sit outside, I stood in the living room with a cup of coffee. (Afternoon coffee always seems like a good idea … until it isn’t.)

As I looked across our yard, watching two birds fighting the wind and an older couple walking their dog, my focus turned to something in our driveway, something that has been there for 20 years.

It was our basketball hoop.

Shortly after we moved into this house, when our kids were still too young to enjoy such a thing, we bought a portable basketball hoop. After all, you weren’t really members of a neighborhood (or really, parents at all) until you had your own playset in the backyard (swings, slide, sandbox and such) and a hoop in the driveway, right?

Opening the massive box in our front yard, we built our hoop right where it stands, six hours of my life I couldn’t get back, with parts and tools strewn all over the driveway and grass, reading the head-scratching directions, trying to decipher the cryptic diagrams, with their dotted lines to show which bolts went where, how the support bracket should be attached to the backboard, and then, wondering what to do with the 13 “extra” pieces that remained.

Back then, there was no YouTube for tips and tricks, just neighbors who’d been through it months and years before, offering advice or maybe a helping hand for the heavy stuff, and always giving that look that said, “I remember when we did that project” just before they’d slither quietly into their car and drive away, grateful they had a family birthday party to attend and therefore, a slam-dunk excuse to get as far away from the project as possible.

As I looked out at that hoop Sunday, knowing someday soon it would also fall prey to the “keep/trash/recycle/donate” protocol, a wave of memories swept over me. I remember shooting around with Kate and later, Will, and trying to teach them some of the fundamentals I learned when I was their age. I remember family games of 2-on-2 or H-O-R-S-E, with the adults trying to find the best way to let the kids win – or at least be competitive – without them knowing we were holding back. (They hated that we’d even consider letting them win.)

Then, I went back further, to my childhood, and the hoop my dad and brother hung on our garage, probably experiencing some of the same head-scratching issues I did a generation later. I was five at the time (I know because someone snapped a photo of me playing on it one day), and it served me well for a couple of years, until I realized it was not regulation height, and that, along with the newfound freedom given to me by my purple Stingray, allowed me to play at a local playground, with its regulation hoops, full court and other kids.

Next, I thought of playing with my best friend/cousin Mike and his brothers and their neighbors on one of their two hoops, one in the driveway, one mounted in an old hay barn; not a full court, but an interesting “indoor/outdoor” setup that allowed us to play virtually all year round. Those days led to many years playing on school and rec teams, at open gyms and finally, on that portable hoop in our own driveway with Joan and the kids, where my basketball career finally ended.

In the end, neither Kate nor Will really took to basketball, opting instead for other sports and activities, though Will did give youth basketball a try (documented by several team photos we ran across while working on the washer/dryer area of the basement).

But Sunday, that didn’t matter. What mattered is that that hoop, now beaten by wear, weather and a dented rim suffered when it tipped over during a windstorm, stood as an icon of sorts to our family. And the feeling I got in my stomach and throat wasn’t from the ill-advised afternoon cup of coffee. It was thinking about what I will have to do with that hoop sometime soon. With something like that, there is no “just in case.” Its destiny, like it or not, has already been determined. I’ll disassemble it and take it away, and except for a comment or two, I’m guessing no one will really miss it.

But I will say this: as much as I’ve been enjoying and getting great satisfaction executing the “keep/trash/recycle/donate” protocol so far, I’m having trouble pulling the trigger on that hoop. And it’s because by doing so, it will signal something final for our family; another milestone, step into our future, and a look back on a time we can’t return to.

Maybe I’m making too much of it. I hope I am. Because if I’m not, then I’m really not looking forward to the day when I finally decide we are not a “hoop” family anymore.

© 2021 David R. Haznaw

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