Monday, January 28, 2008

A Reign of Tyranny, Hoops, and Lords of the Dance

"Your reign of tyranny is over!" Eli 6.5 shouts as he drops a crocheted blanket onto a little stuffed puppy at the bottom of the stairs. The blanket has twine tied to the corners to create a homebrew cast net, albeit a warm, soft one.

This is the new family craze. After seeing an episode of Avatar where Toph is captured, Eli's been dropping his "net" from the stairs to capture almost all of his stuffed animals--the puppy, a penguin, a sock monkey.

There's nothing like coming down the stairs at 7 a.m. on Saturday, still sleepy, and hearing "AGGHHHHHH!" as he leaps out from behind a corner and flings the blanket on you. Or tries, to, anyway.

"Dad, why can I never get the net on you?" he asked after another failed attempt. "I can get mom every time."

One of my many superpowers is anti-capture," I said.


Eli is in a basketball league at the YMCA to while away the time between soccer seasons. Soccer has been great, but basketball, not so much. For one, the rules are this crazy bastardized hybrid that create total chaos. No traveling--if a kid picks up his dribble, he just waits a few seconds, runs a few steps (or quite a few, frequently), and starts dribbling again.

Because of this rule, the league motto is "I Think I Can Get A Shot Off." When surrounded by four defenders (a less-than-rare occurrence), players will frequently wait a few seconds, then shoot anyway.

The other league motto is "I'm Open!" So you have one kid, surrouned by everyone on the other team, thinking I can still get a shot off, and the other kids on his team all yelling "I'm open!" In other words, kind of like the Philadelphia 76ers when Alan Iverson played for them.

This is a league for first and second graders, and since Eli is a young first grader, there are plenty of kids in his league who are more than a year older than him. That means he's one of the shortest kids on the court, and he's not in the middle of all the action like he was in soccer.

He is, however, leading the league in assists. At least, I assume he is, since he had two in Saturday's game, which is probably a league record. I don't think anyone in this league has ever had two assists in one game--I thought they were going to stop the game, give him a new car, and show him videotaped highlights of his career. And he should have had four assists, except two kids missed shots from about three feet.

Yesterday, they had practice, and since a few kids didn't show up, parents were drafted to help during the scrimmage. Including Gloria, whose basketball experience is only slightly less than the dolphins at Sea World.

"I thought you played well," I said after the scrimmage. "Six points and a block."

I didn't KNOW we weren't supposed to shoot," she said, laughing. "How high is that rim, anyway?"

"Eight feet," I said. "Oh, and you're not supposed to hang on it after you dunk."

"Stop it," she said.

"And that block was great," I said. "Especially when you yelled 'MY house, bitch!' "

"Not listening to you," she said.

"Come STRONG or go back to Kindergarten," I said.

When we were in Shreveport after Christmas, we stayed with some of Gloria's friends from high school, and we were in a room that was usually used by their nieces.

On one of the shelves in that room, there was a little "Polly Pocket" music toy. You turned this tiny "turntable" (part of a "disco stage"), an outrageously funky bass line started, and a song played for about five seconds. The lyrics were "Pa-la-la-la-Polly."

It was quite the groove.

Eli 6.5 was just fiddling with the toy and turned it on by accident, but when he heard the song, he immediately started dancing. It was so funny to see him standing there, wiggling his butt and jumping around in front of a tiny pink disco stage.

So the next time he did it, of course, I danced, too. So did Gloria.

For the three nights we stayed there, anytime Eli turned on the song, we all danced. Like I said, it only lasted a few seconds, and we all got used to being in the middle of something, hearing the song start, dancing for five seconds, then going about our business.

A few days after we got home, I realized something quite unexpected: I missed the dancing.

"Hey, Eli," I said, sliding next to him on the couch, "do you miss dancing to Polly Pocket?"

He laughed. "I do," he said. "I REALLY miss it."

"I think we need to order one for ourselves," I said.

"Oh, no--Polly Pocket?" Gloria asked.

"Honey, it's important for us to be constantly interruped and forced to dance--as a family," I said.

Now we have our own "Polly Pocket Groove 'N Dance Disco," and anytime one of us starts the music, no matter what we're doing, we have to dance.

House rule.

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