When Spencer was six, he lived in a world unlike yours and mine. He fought pirates every day, he often galloped away on his horse to save the king and his kingdom, and he always jumped in to save anyone threatened by nefarious villains who passed his way. His imagination was thorough, unshakable, and knew no bounds.
Each day after school, he gave me reports about the soccer team that he was playing in and coaching. His soccer team. They practiced at recess and were coming along quite well. He told me about his huddles and pep talks, and how he had one-on-ones as needed if a player was struggling with something. This was all new and news to me, since Spencer had never played soccer. But with daily practice on the asphalt (their charter school didn’t have a playground yet, just a fenced-in parking lot with a sandbox) I figured he had learned how to kick a ball around.
One day he came to me earnest and excited. He’d told his team they were going to get team shirts, so he needed me to order these for him. Each day he brought it up again, eager to pursue the plan and get those shirts to his players. Of course I couldn’t afford team shirts, even if I’d wanted to indulge his whimsical hopes for matching outfits for his peeps. We’d had to file for special funding when the school switched to Lands’ End uniforms because the kids couldn’t wear their thrift store clothes to school anymore. His wardrobe coordination just wasn’t going to happen.
Some business took me to school one day. Afterwards, I ventured out to the parking lot play area to watch the activities unseen. Spencer was there with all his class and there was a soccer-like game of kick ball going on. About eight or ten kids were in the thick of it, scuffling for the ball, trying to get control and send it into the fence for a goal. Spencer was busy too. The smallest kid on the blacktop, he was in the farthest corner from the game with his eyes fixed on the action and the biggest grin on his face. And his leg was up in the air, constantly kicking an imaginary ball, vicariously playing that game as well as the best of them across the way where the players were battling it out. The team stopped when they needed, regrouped, started again, completely oblivious to Spencer in the corner. But all the while, Spencer watched from the sidelines, happily coaching and buoying them on, all in that wee, marvelous, precious little head of his.
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