This blog starts with a football. By no means should it be imagined by you, dear reader, as an ordinary football. I could probably spend the next several hundred words describing the ball in distinct detail (e.g. number of laces intact versus those that are not), but let me save you a little time and just say this. It’s old. It’s not completely inflated. It’s worn in the expected places. But that’s not what intrigued me the moment I saw it. I felt there was a story hovering over it.
[background info] Perhaps what’s mildly interesting about how it came into my possession was that I did something I do not normally do. At a garage sale in a strange town, I perused a few items on a table in the garage of a couple who were probably well into their seventies. The ball was not on the table, but rather, on a shelf in plain sight right behind one of the tables, so instead of leaving it be, I asked the homeowner about the ball.
So, here are my initial thoughts jotted down moments after buying the football. [and today’s edits in brackets]
It was the first nice April Saturday of the year. [You know, that first spring weekend that announces with a commanding WHOOSH that winter is deceased.] Among commemorative glasses, Bible audio tapes for twenty-five cents apiece, and a quantity of children’s apparel that makes one wonder how any child on this earth could ever be without clothing, a dented [leather] football protrudes from a transparent plastic tub designed for inconspicuous placement beneath a bed. [This garage sale], a biannual event, where proprietors along the well-lamped lawns and cul-de-sacs clean out their closets and guest rooms and essentially exchange wares, [received gifts, and memories, has seen more populated times. Word has it that, just a few years earlier, two of every three houses participated while only now a mere one in four opens its garage doors for the public sale.] It is behind a makeshift display table in the garage of Mr. and Mrs. Suburbia, Ret.
The first item to catch our eyes was a Royal typewriter bolted to a metal desk with flanked folding shelves and a computer-generated sign identifying a suggested price of twenty-five American dollars, crossed out with a twenty-percent discount. The sellers’ chief incentive to any prospective consumer included a typewriter manual, [which was hanging loosely inside the comfort of a transparent three-ring sleeve and attached via a chain–the type often found dangling from a standard household ceiling fan.
The gentlewoman, upon my respectful summons, informs me that she would need to speak to her husband concerning my inquiry into the availability of the ball. She opens a flip phone, dials, and informs a stranger beside her that he’s inside and that calling him is much easier than searching for him indoors. A moment passes and he’s standing beside me. Sporting a bright red polo and pleated khaki pants, he is a full six inches taller than his wife and carries himself the way I’ve always pictured J. D. Salinger did at that age. Upon expressing my interest in the football on the shelf,] a gleam of the past crosses the old man’s eyes. He chokes out the words “Couple bucks if you want it.” [Then, what feels like a lifetime of Polaroids catapult through both our minds–I imagine the hours logged with his unseen son decades ago in the yard just a few feet away. I imagine laughter from the boy and pride from this man. It’s all of a sudden incredibly simple to look at their lawn and visualize heroic catches and slides all involving this two-dollar ball.]
I buy the ball, and walk away wondering if he regretted selling it. He’s not selling the memory and he knows that no one will ever relieve him of his early days as a father. This ball. This icon of Americana, transcends–and becomes more than a simple Saturday transaction between strangers and fathers.