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The Order of Things

I’m tall. It’s no big deal. I don’t go around feeling tall. But I did play basketball in high school. I was a big team-sport person. My brothers, who are both older than me, were pretty basketball mad. Like don’t-tape-over-last-year’s-Knicks-game basketball mad. Many a fight over what got taped over (way before PVR, people) and “which channel are we watching tonight?” got played out in our family home in Kenilworth.

Anyhow, I tried out and was accepted into the Westerford basketball team. There were four teams. Senior A and B and Junior A and B. I played for Junior B and then I would like to think I moved to A. And then I played for Senior B and I would like to think I moved to A. I must have moved to A and that would coincide with all those games I spent sitting on the bench. I played post. I don’t have any recollection of how good or bad I was. I think I was scared most of the time. Mrs. Ashworth, our coach, would stand on the side-line and screech your name. Often I couldn’t hear what she was actually saying. Was she giving me an instruction like “get back on D” or was she cussing me out for missing the free throws? I remember there was a spell where I was okay-good. Mostly because we had a great coach and a strong team. We had a killer fast-break helped along by Jacqui and Lynne as the ball-carriers. There too were Emmy-Lou, Sasha, Beata and Anne. We streaked through the school terms, playing every Saturday and leaving the other girls’ teams in the smoke of our victories. And then there was that sweet time when we tried out for Western Province and a bunch of us were selected. Some of us Westerford-people and other girls from a smattering of schools, girls we’d seen and beat on the court but who were now on the same team as us. It was fun. We had a feisty coach, Jane. Spiky hair and good teeth. Soon after the team was formed we were told of an upcoming provincial tournament, trials will be held to select the team to travel up to wherever it was and represent the Western Cape. Meanwhile I basked in the special coolness of being a girl playing ball for Province. I was never one to attract the attention of boys in high-school so, yeah, it was nice.

Big day arrived – trials. Two girls will be cut. At the end of a long day of drills we were told to sit down, so we sprawled, panting, on the floor of the indoor court. Jane walked between our splayed-out legs and propped arms. She pulled out a clipboard and started calling names. I remember feeling caught off guard. As each name was called the girl stood up and did her private jig, hugged someone. It went on and then suddenly Jane wasn’t calling out any more names and I was still sitting along with Alison. We stood up. Jacqui and Lynne came to console us. I was in a Humpty-esque daze. Some mercy appeared in the form of my mother outside, waiting to collect me. I managed a good bye to my ex-team mates and got into her car. I then cried like an oversized newborn. As if failure was fresh, as if I’d lived some protected life of only successes. As if I hadn’t felt like an impostor, the nerd who, by some freak of nature, was on a cool sports team. There was really nothing to cry about – the order of things had been restored.

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  1. June 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Isn’t failure always “fresh” though…no matter how practiced we are it, its raw when it hits us that we have just FAILED at something. And yet, through those episodes, we learn and grow and expand who we are and what’s possible. Thank you for sharing this piece. Love it!.

  2. June 13, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Thank you. And yes you’re right, each new failure is a fresh one. I guess it’s that feeling of forgetting failure exists! Then wham, there is your reminder. I just remember, as a kid in that moment, really being blindisded.

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