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Trunks for the Memories

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Trunks for the Memories

A lot of things bring back memories and March is no exception! Along with its usual delivery of cling-on mud, standing water, returning and somewhat startled migratory species, wildly gyrating weather patterns and escalating hormonal imbalances, it also brings me annual memories of the very first opportunity I had to slip on a pair of basketball trunks... I was in the very first grade! And these weren’t the trunks of today’s basketball but those of ‘yesteryear’! When trunks were trunks, not short pajamas. March is tournament time for ‘roundball’ fans!

You see, back in ancient times, we as children were forced by coercion into dangerous physical activity far beyond our normal range of knobby-kneed ineptitudes. And for me, this was over and above what my two older brothers had in mind for entertainment. When you first start going to school, this gets way out of hand as teachers are professional grade coercers and coaches are at the very pinnacle of this craft.

In that, our ‘second age of discovery’, my peers and I often discovered we were being set up for ulterior motives such as hygiene education, etiquette (of all things absurd), communication skills and several other such abject humiliations. The gang I belonged to, lead by a consortium of the toughest first and second graders, tried unsuccessfully to thwart these efforts by whining and groaning as much as possible, which wasn’t much as the vast majority of our ‘thwarting’ resulted in our ear lobes being stretched, pinched and in some cases pierced by thumbnail. The rest of it simply echoed around the ‘boy’s room’ walls, ineffectual as usual.

Public exhibitions of our ‘runtiness’ were considered to be in our own best interest, though, for proper growth and development, humility being one they paid close and happy attention to. Although we had the egos of full-grown adults, our butts were no match for those of eighth or ninth graders, some of whom had been held back enough times to be shaving on a regular basis. Not the actual butts mind you, just the faces that belonged to ‘em.

So we were introduced, at the age of five or six, to what seemed like professional grade basketball. Our salaries, being performance based, were paid out in pretty ribbons with official gold lettering proclaiming the bearer to be somewhat adept and near god-like, depending on the color of the ribbon. The many perks included knuckle rubs, nugies, wet willies, wedgies and butt pats. I felt we were getting somewhat over perked in our ‘rookie’ year and even mentioned this concept to my coach (a ninth grader) who promptly gave me a generous raise, after which, I kept my mouth shut unless stepped on.

Gaining foresight and a little intuition besides, I deemed my coach to be far more important than my teacher and almost less painful! I was not alone here. “Soshul standing trumps edjukashun evry tyme!” wrote one of my esteemed colleagues on his desk, a mere seconds, before having an uncontrollable spasm of overwhelming regret and sore knuckles.

My exposure to this magnificent sport, up to that point, had been severely limited by the fact that we didn’t even have a basketball at home and that I also spent the largest share of my idyllic early youth rearranging dirt with my ‘rolling stock’ and losing my marbles to friends, relatives, or the occasional girl. About the only thing I actually had in common with it was my stunning aptitude towards dribbling, which was also severely limited to liquids of any kind, not basketballs.

There was, however, a great deal of pride involved with being allowed on the same floor at the same time as the upper classmen. The same kind of pride one could feel if one were to, say, survive ‘the running of the bulls’ in Pamplona.

Dangers were everywhere; a menagerie of knees, elbows, navels and flatulence at nose level, bringing on bruises, bumps, welts and watery eyes. Having a gargantuan tennis shoe land full force on your Lilliputian tootsies would cause your ears to go pop like bubble wrap and your tongue to exhibit like a party favor.

 This was a standard introduction to physics in that first and foremost grade, instilling forever the notion: ‘for every action, there’s an equal or at least humorous reaction’. Having been born under a bar sign, I’d been studying this theory for years already and still couldn’t figure out how to avoid the consequences.

But I fell in love with basketball anyways. Through the careful use of repetition, I managed to overcome the sight of my own blood as well as the smell of others’ eating habits. The first time I felt that unfakeable texture of a brand new ball in my hands, or even on my nose or forehead, I was hooked. The echo was even more rewarding! 

We learned the important stuff early, during practice sessions at recess prior to an official, all-school tournament made up of all the boys from grades 1 through 9, divvied up into teams well balanced in height, weight, pimples and goose bumps. Things like “MOVE!”, “DUCK!”, “RUN!”, “CATCH!”, “PASS!” and “THAT’S THE WRONG WAY, YOU MORON!” were drilled into each of us to such an extent that we eventually couldn’t hear it anymore and just did what came natural. This included holding our noses, scratching our butts and falling down a lot.

When it came time for us to don some actual uniforms though, my pride overflowed! Nothing in the whole wide world could ever be more important as this!

Towering over their understudies, the junior high kids of our team doled out our trunks and jerseys, sparing every ounce of consideration towards size or shape of their youngest teammates.

I held up my jersey and it looked more like the janitor’s undershirt! Being somewhat of a budding comic, I slid it over my head and crossed the shoulder straps over my nose, hooking them around my ears. This at least kept the fabric off of the floor and elevated the number to just above my knees. About all I needed then would be a ‘trick or treat’ bag and the last day of October, not the first week of March!

I held the trunks up around my waist and my hands almost met at the modest crack of my butt. This worried me some as I was all too familiar with trying in vain to fill out my siblings’ hand-me-downs and vaguely aware of how ridiculous I would look playing in suspenders.

Exploring the possibility of a trade, I came to the conclusion it would be a moot point as they were all the same relative size—relatively humongous. Then I explored the possibility of wearing them over my jeans until my coach, with the unlikely name of “Squeak,” told me to, “Quit clowning around and lose the pants, big guy.” I ignored any sarcasm he may have implied and graciously accepted the fact he’d used “big” as an adjective in my direction.

We left the locker room and trotted upstairs to the gym, me holding on to my pride with both hands and hoping nobody would throw the ball in my direction until I put on another seventy pounds or so. Squeak ordered us to line up by height then stood back to survey his chances of winning the coveted white ribbon so important to his social well being and dating capabilities.

“Stand up straight! Suck it in and look like men, men!” he bellered, his voice cracking on that first “men” part, prompting two giggles from my right and a pert little snort out of my own button nose but we complied anyways. Two pairs of trunks hit the hardwood—mine, and a second grader’s.

We didn’t quite look like men so far as I could tell. From the waist down, I looked more like a couple of toothpicks sticking out of a sun-dried tomato! Out came a few safety pins and we were ready for business, triggering the one occasion in my first year that I was in favor of my teacher being in the same room as my exposed ear lobes. 

I was headily impressed in more ways than one. This was it! The “Big Time!”

I could already hear the deafening cheers and jeers from the throngs of jubilant fans, knowing full well the whole town would have to turn out to actually count as a throng but it usually did for every game. Classmates and teachers, relatives and proud parents, alumni and neighbors would fill the bleachers with yells and smiles, smirks and heartfelt laughter as well as memories and stories of seasons past. 

Who could resist such a treat! Life is a parade, get in or go home. And you don’t need to wear trunks. Especially, baggy ones. 

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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basketball, Acres n Pains

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