My partner has gotten little mention here. And though she’s the kind of person who would gladly leave it at that, there is a lot to say. About our shared motherhood and being lesbian mothers in our particular school, neighborhood, community. About her. About our long time together before we were parents together. And about her important work before we ever met.
But let’s start here. She is a feminist. And besides being a wonderful, stand-up, roll-up-her-sleeves- and- get- it- done kind of person who is very good to people and who is easily liked by people, she’s a jock. Through and through. I am not. So when she came home a couple months ago and announced that she was going to assist S. who was coaching our 4th and 5th grade girls basketball team, I didn’t know where she was going to find the time, but I think I said, “great!” and barely looked up from some inconsequential thing I was doing.
To be truthful, I continued to not pay much attention for awhile, except I knew it was a good thing for her to do. As part of one of the public school reconfigurations a few years ago, our school added upper grades. This girls’ basketball team is part of the very early phase of getting the athletic programs going for the older kids.
The season has rolled along with my partner leaving work early and going to practices regularly on days that I cannot seem to keep straight in my head. I talk to her often at the end of the day and ask “when are you leaving work?” and she often says “I’m gone, I’m at practice.” News to me.
Then the games started. On game days my partner gets our daughter a little bit before school lets out and they go to get ready for the game. I hear the reports after work. “We won!”; “We won again!!”
My partner is simply happy and her eyes shine when she talks about how proud she is of the girls; how much she loves being their coach, playing a little herself, helping them figure out how to play, use their bodies and their minds and work as a team. She loves this and I love her for loving this. Yesterday I had to see for myself and went to school for a home game at the end of the day.
We have a huge, cavernous gymnasium in a very old, grand and dilapidated school building. I took a seat on one of the two-deep rows of folding chairs on the spectator side of the gym. My daughter and her best friend were in the team seats on the other side of the gym– well not actually in the seats, but hopping around, jumping up and down, excited. They help with the uniforms, water bottles and whatever is needed. Next year they’ll be old enough to be on the team.
The girls on our team are simply gorgeous and inspiring. At this age they are all heights and sizes, from very small to near adult height and weight. For a team that is still just coming together, with some who have never played before, they are remarkable in their focus, support of each other, cooperation.
When I walked in they were warming up. My coach-partner and Coach S. were out there with them; both women shouting instruction, gesturing, patting them on the back, encouraging. It’s all encouragement. The acoustics in the gym are terrible, everything is cacophony– so there was a noisy, exciting atmosphere right from the start.
The mothers were arriving to watch and cheer. I know a lot of these moms, some I like more than others, but this was different. All for one purpose; a group of women there to back their daughters. It’s a woman’s thing, this effort.
One woman; a mother in nice business clothes, whose face I recognize but who I’ve never met, came and sat down next to me and we introduced ourselves and talked a little. Well shouted actually, although we were sitting next to each other. She had her younger daughter and a friend with her but she was focused on the girls on the floor warming up.
She said warmly, “you’re our coach’s partner, aren’t you?” “Yes”, I said– “and she loves this” I said. “Don’t get me wrong, life with her is good, but life at our house is so much better when she is coaching 4th and 5th grade girls’ basketball.”
When the visiting team arrived, that mother looked at them, and then at me and said, “uh oh… they’re so much bigger than we are.” Her daughter is the fearless point guard– literally about 2/3 the height and weight of many of the other girls. I know that my partner is especially proud of that young girl’s fearless tenacity and she was, as the game unfolded, a sight to behold. Jumping, waving, just fiercely bothering anyone from the other team who had the ball while the opponent or the teammate she was passing to, towered above her. Our girls are a terrific team, with our two women coaches and a phalanx of mothers backing the team.
They defended, they passed, they shot, they shot again, they looked for each other and worked together and they got that first basket. And then the next. And the next after that and the next after that and they kept going. I think the person managing the scoreboard stopped counting when the score was 34-4. Yesterday was the fifth win of five games in the season.
At the end of the game they were what you want for a daughter in this world — if not every single day, at least often enough so they don’t give up on themselves or each other. Girls. Undefeated.