The Belle and the Ball

Dubsie is a singer, a socialite, a dancer, an artist in the medium of crayons, a Magna-Tile architect, a skier, a swimmer, a cyclist. What she evinces zero interest in is anything involving a ball.

Her (male) cousins are worshipful acolytes of the Ball God. Last summer, I watched her six-year-old cousin Victor play an astonishing turn at goalie, throwing himself fearlessly among sharp feet in a pickup game. An adult pickup game. Dubsie wouldn’t lunge for a soccer ball in a million years. If a scrum of children is scrapping it out for a ball, Dubsie discovers there’s a flower on the sidelines in need of picking.

Once at a festival I teed her up for a round of Skee-Ball, that game where you roll a ball up a ramp into a target in hopes of winning a stuffed animal. She took a vague glance at the carnival attraction and heaved the ball toward somewhere. The ball missed the target, the ramp, and even the booth, landing in an adjoining stall where it startled a guy selling socks. Her next two balls ended up among the socks too.

Dubsie just laughed. She cares not a whit where the ball lands. She will play a ball game if one forms around her, but the ball is only a prop in a larger plan. It goes something like this.

Victor, Dubsie and I form a triangle in the grass on a soft summer night. I lob a soft one toward Dubsie, the softest ball I can find at the slowest possible speed. It thumps against her sternum and falls to the ground.

“I have an idea!” she says, nudging the ball with her foot. “Let’s put the ball inside the hula hoop. Then I’ll stand here inside the hoop, and you two get your own hula hoops, and you stand inside them! And then we’ll…”

“Dubsie, throw the ball!” says Victor, gaze fixed on the orb.

“…then we’ll throw the ball from one hula hoop to the other. No, I’ve got a better idea. You two come to my hula hoop, and we’ll each stand on one corner, with the ball in the middle, and then we’ll all hold hands…”

“Dubsie!” I say. “Stop with the speech. There is a ball at your feet. Pick it up and throw it to Victor.”

“…sure, Dada, but first you get the ball. Or maybe a rock. Maybe we get Mummy to join us, and then there would be four people on the hula hoop, and that would be good, but maybe we could get one more person to come along, and then we’d have five. Then we could put the ball, or the rock, in the middle…”

“DUBSIE!” Victor cries in anguish.

And so it goes. Dubsie is eventually persuaded to throw the ball, or maybe not, and it goes somewhere close to its target, or it doesn’t. Either way she won’t remember a thing about it. There’s still plenty of time to teach her to throw, and I’m going to try. But I’d put more money on her being the one who makes the rules.


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