This spring is The Spring of the Basketball Hoop. Aaron and I had talked about it a little bit, in the loose conversation we have on a walk, or while the boys are tearing around the park. “We should get a basketball hoop” fell into the same idle well-intentioned chatter as “we should do something about the landscaping” and “we should go camping.”
And then one day, when one of our boys was having a hard day – another hard day after a couple hard weeks: anxiety and fear, sleeplessness – he and I were in the house, and when we looked out the front window, we saw Aaron dragging a basketball hoop down the sidewalk. One of our neighbors had dragged it to the curb and stuck a “free” sign on it, and on his way home from work, Aaron grabbed it.
We ran outside, delighted, confused. Did you just steal a basketball hoop? Our son was very concerned. Aaron assured him that it was free for the taking. We cleaned it up, and put up a smaller sized one, too, for littler kids.
And we are just absolutely in love with this beat-up, hand-me-down basketball hoop and its shorter neighbor hoop. On hard mornings, it helps our son’s anxious feelings if we make sure we’re all ready about twenty minutes before the bus comes, and we all go outside together. I shuffle out in my slippers and bedhead, bringing out coffee for Aaron and me. The kids shoot around, and the neighbor kids wander over. By the time the bus comes, the nerves have been shaken off, and our boy runs to the corner, yelping and laughing with the rest of the kids.
We play before school and after, and it’s contagious, it seems. You can’t walk by without shooting, and then if you miss you can’t help but try a few more times. We had friends over for dinner last night, and one friend had just finished preaching at church. He was still in his navy blazer, but he jumped right in and took a few shots nonetheless.
My brother and dad shoot around with us when they stop over on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. One night, our boys were shooting around, and Aaron sunk a great shot. I took a picture of him while he shot, and he posted it on Instagram, issuing a challenge to his best friend Steve, one of the best basketball players we know, and one of the most competitive people we know. We laughed about it, and then I went in to start dinner, slicing tomatoes and onions and jalapenos, scooping avocados out of their leathery shells for guacamole.
I heard cheering in the driveway – apparently Steve saw the post at his house, jumped in the car, and was running up our driveway while the kids cheered and yelled. Challenge! Challenge! It would offend Aaron terribly if I called it an upset, but that’s what it was: Aaron beat Steve quite soundly, and the kids were delighted about the whole thing. We went in and had tacos and quesadillas, and the boys kept saying, “Remember when Daddy beat Uncle Steve?”
We had a party recently, lots of adults and kids, and while I’d planned for us to eat around the dining room table and at the kitchen counter, the group planted itself in the driveway, because of the boys, because of the basketball hoop. We pulled the grill around from the back patio, and the fire pit, too. We roasted marshmallows in the driveway, watched the stars come out, shot baskets till it was too dark to see a thing.
It feels right, more and more often, to let the boys’ desires define our decisions – not in every way, but in some. The hours we’ve spent in the driveway this spring are some of the sweetest we’ve spent together. Aaron and I aren’t homebodies at all, not routine people even a little. We love to travel, love the changes of scenery and adventure. But our boys are teaching us about home, about patterns, about the most meaningful ways to spend our time.
Our home is becoming more an anchor and less a place to land for a hot minute between work trips. Our driveway, of all places, is becoming the place where our life unfolds, and I’m loving the change.
Shauna Niequist is the author of Present Over Perfect, Savor, Bread & Wine, Cold Tangerines, and Bittersweet. Shauna is a bookworm, a beach bum, an enthusiastic home cook and a passionate gatherer of people. She is married to Aaron, and they live in Chicago with their two boys, Henry and Mac. You can connect with her online at ShaunaNiequist.com.