Whether she missed the ball or caught it, her eyes slid my way afterwards. She turned them to where I sat on the bleachers, seeking my thumbs-up approval or my better-luck-next-time shrug. The ball usually caught her by surprise mid-sentence or when flipping her hair or readjusting the little knot on her t-shirt. Had I ever possessed the courage to stand on a court, I would’ve missed a sure shot in lieu of flicking my ponytail too. This was the longest hour of every week, and also one of the sweetest. She ran like a gazelle with long, strong legs that kicked the sky when she made a basket. Big eyes like glowing orbs caught my own to make sure I saw it. I saw her.
An hour later, the older boys immersed themselves in their own game. There was no conversation or singing of Taylor Swift lyrics on the court. There was hustle. They offered small crooked smiles at mistakes, pumped fists at a three-pointer, but also, the same searching eyes asked the question–did you see me? My boy scanned the seats during every game to find my eyes fixed on him, and I gathered all of his nearly imperceptible nods like tiny treasures.
At some point during every game, Coach Coyle and I met eyes across the gloss of the gym floor. We sent small signals–I see you, I see them, I see us right there on the court singing or dribbling or looking for our approval. They were the holiest, hidden moments where we saw ourselves clearly through each other’s eyes–we are seen, we are loved, and we offer the same gift to our children.
I never thought I’d see love written in glances across a basketball court. But, every winter Saturday, I sat in my yoga pants in a crowd of mothers and fathers listening the the squeak of sneakers across a gym floor, waiting to catch eyes with the ones I love. Waiting to acknowledge their wins, accept their flaws, and watch them kick the sky with joy.