The Case of the Stolen Basketball Hoop

wpid-img_20151017_211124.jpgFirst things first: I slept for TWELVE HOURS last night. After a whirlwind September followed by Aviva’s bat mitzvah and birthday weekends, this mama was–is–pooped.

This morning when I started writing this post, Mani was watching a show about houses around the world. A house built into the side of a mountain. A house with a rotating second floor, so you can get the light and view you want. A floating house  underwater. A 110-foot-long house on stilts, with a river running below it. Houses whose beauty and function are both astonishing feats of architecture, design, and engineering and that defy the imagination. Houses that cost, no doubt, tens of millions of dollars to build and maintain.  Houses beyond anything I’ve ever set foot in or eyes on.

We just got cable; I am so not a TV person that this is a Big Deal for me to spend money on, but as Mani said, “You’ve just made your wife and kids very happy,” which of course makes me happy, so it’s quite simple.

Meanwhile, our sweet yellow house (well, not ours, but the one where we rent the second-floor apartment) is on a street that UMass-Amherst students use to cut over to town from campus. Mostly, this isn’t a problem. Except when it is, like last year when Aviva’s bike was stolen from the top of the driveway (never recovered, and she and I now share a bike). And today.

I slept till 11:30. Hours and hours of waking this morning, submerged in dreams, rolling over and going back to sleep without even checking the time. Needless to say, I was shocked when I finally did and saw that it was edging towards noon. I started out slowly; I have this new thing now–and by new, I mean not young–where I can’t just spring out of bed the way I used to. My lower back has been hurting for weeks now, and I’m realizing that some very gentle morning stretches are not just a good idea but a necessity if I want to stand upright for the rest of the day. (Probably not ideal is that I sit for so much of the day, but that is a different story.)

In any case, I moved through a few very, very slow vinyasas on the bedroom floor, a mug of steaming coffee by my side. I climbed back into bed for a little bit after that and read with one hand while rubbing Mani’s forehead with the other (she slept in, too). And then I finally felt awake enough to throw on some running clothes — yoga pants, a jog bra, and my “Gym Hero” tank from TJ Maxx, the one I particularly like since I haven’t belonged to a gym since 1999.

The run was brisk and glorious. These  last two weeks of light and color have been spellbinding and irresistible, beckoning me outside at least once a day beyond the necessary outings to pick up or drop off Aviva at the bus, get groceries, or the like. Today was no exception, though the brightness and abundance are fading and thinning noticeably by the day, and it’s clear that November is near.

At one point, I passed a young woman wearing a faux fur coat; we must have been thinking the same thing, about how this season seems to hold room for such a wide range of clothing and comfort. “Awesome,” she said as our eyes met, and I smiled at her.

After 22 minutes, I walked the rest of the way home, stopping at one point in a low crouch to coax my lower back. It was only then that I began to feel a little chilly, though the sun was strong when it broke through the moody, mid-October clouds.

A few minutes after getting home, I heard footsteps on our stairs–our equivalent of a doorbell, since we have none. I peeked out of the bedroom to see who it was and saw one of our downstairs neighbors.

“I have some news for you,” he began dramatically. I’m not sure if the suspense-building was on purpose, or if he just has a natural talent for deadpan delivery. I had absolutely no idea what he could be talking about.

“The bad news is: Your basketball hoop was stolen.”

“Aaaaaaw, man!” I responded,  feeling totally bummed for Pearl and also pissed that this is the price we pay in addition to rent higher than any mortgage I’ve ever carried, for living in a  lovely, sunny, clean apartment just a few blocks from town.

“The good news is: I know where it is.”

“You do????” I exclaimed. In fact, he went on, he’d just passed it on his way home from work. It was smack in the middle of the sidewalk, across the street from a nearby fraternity house.

I thanked him, laced my sneakers back up, and went on a basketball-hoop-retrieval mission. Indeed, there it was, just standing there, the bottom part a little mashed but other than that, no worse for its adventure at the hands of some drunk kids in the middle of the night. Did they even shoot any hoops, I wondered? And: Oh, boy. I am going to be that lady, the one hauling the full-sized hoop down the street in her yoga pants.

A guy with “Pepe” embroidered on his coat appeared out of nowhere and offered to help about halfway back. I took him up on it, before asking him to snap a photo of me, and also before reaching my driveway. I tend to be so trusting, and it occurred to me that I also might not want to show this person the way to my house; I’d already mentioned Aviva’s bike, so now he knew I had two kids.

It’s weird, that balance between being so open–I am such a natural connector in some ways–with also having boundaries, tuning into instincts, and not questioning them when they say, this is good here, thank you so much for your help.

Basketball hoop recovered. Hot shower never felt so good. Leftover pizza cold from the box for lunch, Ensure for Mani. The show with the crazy gorgeous homes. And later in the afternoon, “Grandma” with my mom at Amherst Cinema, the Lily Tomlin film I knew very little about but loved for its realness, its ache, its generations of women, its unsugar-coated presentation of love.

Tonight, I printed out 18 pages, double-spaced, and a one-sentence cover letter for The Sun. I’ve submitted work there in the past, and every time, the prospect–no matter how teeny or tiny–of having something published there is so exciting that it overrules the inner critic who would happily snuff out my starry-eyed dreams.

This isn’t naiveté; it’s persistence. And rarely do I feel quite as energized and like myself as when I’m getting something ready to submit. It’s the best feeling ever, a combination of purpose and drive and passion and meticulousness that I don’t have in every part of my life or heart, but that I distinctly remember feeling even as an 18-year old, say, preparing Self Addressed Stamped Envelopes for literary journals.

I rarely send out my writing for publication these days. It just hasn’t been a priority. But the handful of times I’ve had work accepted (I actually put together a partial list here) have felt so good, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to reach more people with my writing.

So: Catching up on sleep. Cable TV. Tank tops in October. The aging body. Drunken undergraduate thieves and lovely neighbors and instincts and Lily Tomlin and writing and putting it out there, knowing full well rejection may be likely but is not inevitable–are these things connected somehow? Isn’t that the reason I blog, to pull all of the disparate strands from a day into some kind of bow you’d recognize and want to pull open, to unwrap with the promise of something beautiful waiting inside?

Maybe that’s just it. The gift is not apart from the strands. There’s no deeper meaning or lesson in everything; the freedom to run and enjoy the beauty of the season, the kindness of a stranger for a moment, the self-trust to say, I can get it from here. The strength to haul the child’s hoop the rest of the way home, the faith it takes to persevere, and the courage it takes to really love. Love life, love the one you’re with, love your own self on a daily basis no matter what the conditions.

That’s all for now. A touchstone, an x-marks-the-spot. The appearance of something good that you didn’t even realize was gone.

A day in the life. A whole life, in one day.

8 thoughts on “The Case of the Stolen Basketball Hoop

    • Jena Schwartz says:

      Ha – could be, Juliana! (One editor, not at the Sun but at an equally well-known magazine, once told me my poems were “too highly introspective” for their readers. Sigh.) Not gloomy sounds refreshing, as far as I’m concerned.


  1. Dakota says:

    Eish! I’m glad you were able to recover it. I admit I’d be very tempted to leave a letter taped to the Frat house door.

    Congratulations on submitting work to the Sun! My fingers are crossed for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa Sorensen says:

    Jena, I love that photo of you–so upright and smiling and pleased. I’m smiling right back. And how you turn a day into a poem, a life, love. And remind me of what matters in my days. Thank you! And best wishes on the Sun submittal!



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