THE FOOTBALL UNCLE
By Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estés
By Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estés
There is a promesa I believe,
and it is that everyone can make for themselves
a worthy place
even if there was, at first,
no place at all prepared for them anywhere.
We had an old uncle who told us
he could have played in the National League.
Uncle Izzy always seemed
to be carrying a football.
At Thanksgiving dinner,
at Christmas presents,
there was always Uncle Izzy with his football.
No matter what suit he wore,
Pigskin was his ultimate accessory.
He faked and then threw hard.
Thump. A boy catches the ball
or is hit by it.
The ball is thrown back to Izzy.
It wobbles through the air.
Uncle catches it,
pulls back his arm.
Thump. Another son catches the ball again.
Uncle Izzy had this habit of hurling the ball so fast,
it hit you right in the stomach even if you caught it.
If you missed it, he'd scoop the ball up again--
he could hold a whole turkey in one hand.
"Okay Star," he'd yell, "now look, I'm going to send it to you!"
Girls got only one chance. Boys got many.
It wasn't right, but it just was the way it was.
Uncle Izzy always wanting to go out in the night alley,
where the harsh lamplight shone through
the huge heart shaped leaves of catalpa
making waving black lace appear on the dirt road,
and all the neighbors alley side gardens put sharp
tomato and peppers and
flowers smells into the night.
And there we'd play ball.
"Come on, come on," Uncle'd get right in the boys' faces,
he'd interrupt their body spaces.
While I was always relegated to be the goal posts,
way down at the dark end of the alley,
I raised my little girl arms high over my head,
moving the living goal posts
just a little to the left or to the right to accommodate
the really little boys,
and sometimes when our big cousin who was a true bully
was about to make a kick, the goal posts would,
sort of at the last moment,
move a teeny bit to one side, and he would often miss
and stomp around screeching in a temper fit after.
But then Uncle Izzy would say, "Watch Sport,"
and drop-kick the pigskin,
betting a nickel he could make it
and he almost always did.
One summer, the boys shouts turned all manly deep,
and they began earning their nickels back,
til they had earned them all back and then some.
And Uncle Izzy was both hurt and happy about it.
"The ball chooses which hands it will love," he said.
"It will love your hands," he whispered to our bully cousin.
Did my cousin put this tremendous medicine to good use?
No. Instead, he became a basement insurance salesman
who sits like a mashed potato on his TV couch.
I fear our bully cousin didn't hear, but I heard it, I took it.
That ball will love these hands . . . my hands. Somehow,
I didnt know how . . .
Only that sometimes the soul of the one
the words are not meant for,
overhears them, and becomes strong anyway.
All my uncle's words, I took them all and ran with them . . .
I ran with the ball, as they say, all the way, as far as I could,
as fast as I could,
as strong as I could.
All these decades later, Uncle Izzy long underground,
sometimes in my most dead-end dead times,
and right out of the blue, I can hear him still
and the spirit child in me breaks away from
all the hulks pursuing,
and she runs crazy wild for daylight once again,
running to the cries of the long ago coach
who bellowed to the boys:
"Play, play, play! Come on Star!
show me whatchu got man!
show me what you got . . . "
I still do.
I hope I always shall.
©1976, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, All Rights Reserved.
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