Taking One for the Team

It’s the beginning of January and the first Monday back from the winter break. I’m usually not very enthusiastic about Mondays, but today is the start of basketball season. I’m sitting in class pretending to read Hamlet. I’m too distracted by the ticking sounds of a clock. There are 3 minutes until the bell rings at exactly 3:34pm. My excitement is pumping through my veins and almost out of my chest. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. When you lay awake in bed, waiting for the clock to hit 9am. In my family this is the most appropriate time to wake everyone up on Christmas morning.

The bell rings, I immediately run out of the classroom. I head to my locker to grab my basketball gear and head straight down to the gymnasium. On my way, I navigate through the maze of people. I speed walk passed my classmates, trying not to make eye contact with any of them.

I like to be the first one in the change rooms. The idea of ‘calm before the storm’ appeals to me greatly. After 5 minutes of prepping myself, the rest of the team piles in through the doors. One of my teammates starts her music; “Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake and Lil John is blasting through her small, but mighty boom box.

On the first day of practice, before we even start we head to our Coach’s office and we pick out our uniform numbers. I’m a senior on the junior basketball team and seniors have sonority, so we get to choose our numbers first. I pick number 10. The rest of the team picked their numbers and then we start to discuss if we want matching sweaters, pants, and shoes. We are going over the cost of the clothing. Most of the girls vote ‘yes’ to getting extra clothes. But, not all the girls on the team agree to get extra, unnecessary clothing. One of the new 7th graders explains that she doesn’t want to get other clothing. This causes an outbreak between the team. The girls didn’t understand why she didn’t want to get the sweaters, pants, and shoes. I remember thinking, “Why wouldn’t she want to get the clothes too? We could match as a team?” But, then it came to me that it wasn’t that the 7th graders didn’t want the clothes… It’s probably due to the expense of the clothes. As, a team player I took the girl to the side and she further explained that she didn’t want to purchase the clothes, because her parents wouldn’t pay for the unnecessary clothing.

I found myself reflecting upon the matter. Should we not get the matching clothes, because one person can’t afford them? My answer was yes. I could tell by the girls faces that they were disappointed. But, I could understand why they didn’t see eye to eye with this matter. Growing up in a lower class family gave me a different perspective of the world and people that live in it. I didn’t always have the luxuries my friends had. So, that’s when I found myself thinking, “Being a teammate isn’t symbolized by the matching clothing you wear, being a teammate means to support one another through leadership and kindness.” In the end we didn’t go through with purchasing the matching clothes. What we did do is learn the value of what a true teammate entails and truly understanding the meaning behind “taking one for the team.”

Unnoticed Sexism

It’s the middle of February and I’m on my way home from 5th grade. I trench through the snow on the ground, I can feel the freezing cold air blast my face. The distinct sound of my ski-pants rubbing together as I walk distracts me for a moment from the cold air I breathe in. My house is only 3 blocks from the school; it normally only takes me 10 minutes in the winter to get home. That’s only if I’m not preoccupied with snowball fights with my pals or stopping at “The Hill” to slide down it on my crazy carpet. Today was too cold to do any of those things. As I approach the front entrance of my house, I swing my backpack off my shoulders; I find my key that is attached to my pink keychain. I unlock the door, jump into the house as fast as I can, trying to save the warm air from escaping. I stomp off the snow on my winter boots on the porch rug and start to undress myself from my winter outdoor attire.

I look on the calendar to see what is on the after school schedule. It is Tuesdays, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the rest of the month it reads, “Lacrosse.” I burst into excitement, as I forgot that today is the day I get to begin my lacrosse practice for the year. I know my responsibilities, before my Dad gets home 4:30. I am suppose to pack up all my Lacrosse gear, fill my water bottle, re-dress myself and wait by the porch for my Dad to pick me up and take me to the rink.

We arrive at the rink, I am both nervous and eager to see whom my teammates are this season. Before we can get changed into our equipment, everyone is invited to sit in a circle with our parents and introduce ourselves. We sit in the shape of an almost complete circle, crossed legged. The coach, he announces that we are supposed to say your first and last name and how many years you have been playing Lacrosse. As I begin to look around, I don’t see any familiar faces, I see all boys, and most of them say this is there 2nd or 3rd year. I worry that I am on the wrong team, as I have been playing lacrosse for 4 years and I should be on a more advanced team. Once we are finished introductions and the parents leave, I approach the coach and asked, “Why I wasn’t place on the more advance team?” He replied, “This is the team is best suit for you as a girl, the other team would have been to rough.” I remember thinking to myself, I never even have a chance to prove them wrong, and I have been underestimated. I thought people could see my ambition and competitiveness. In that moment I don’t think I could have felt more discouraged. After, this very short conversation I was instructed to change in to my lacrosse gear first and the boys will go in after I am finished.

I head back to the dressing room and I start to change. I have all the sport necessary equipment on, but I have not had time put my jersey on. Without a knock, the boys barge in. The first boy to come in spits in the garbage to the left, which was the same side, I was standing. I am afraid; I froze standing there in my equipment and sports bra. The rest of the boys followed in, mimicking the same spitting motion as the first boy. They proudly banged the entrance door against the wall every time they walked in, kicking their shoes off just enough for them to hit the ceiling. They still haven’t noticed me. I remember feeling helpless and fearful of their radical movements. They looked like a bunch of wild animals in the jungle the way they trudged in through the change room. Finally, they noticed me, all them at once. They looked at me, as if I was from a different plant. Their eyes were glued against me, their jaws dropped, and it went silent.

The Colour of Her Skin

The bright and hot sun penetrates through my window and lights up my entire bedroom. The sun is my alarm clock and its time to get up for the day. I peek my eyes open, one at a time. I realize that it’s 9:00am and it’s the first day of summer. It’s like Christmas day, in June. The excitement of the first day of summer is running through my veins and you can see it in my face, as I smile ear to ear. My Dad told me that now that I’m 11 years old and I’ll be going into grade 6 next September, I am now allowed to take my bike downtown Melville all by myself. I’m fired up; I cannot wait to go adventure around downtown.

On the kitchen table, there is a purple dollar bill waiting for me and a note, it says, “Here is $10.00 for downtown. Have a good day, love Dad.” I’m thrilled to see this, because I usually only get five dollars. After, I get ready for the day; I grab my ten-dollar bill slip into my favourite pair of cutoff jean shorts and head to the back shed to grab my bike.

I’m gliding through the streets, peddling as fast I can, dodging every pothole possible. I approach my friend’s house and I knock on her door. Her mother, along with her 5 brothers and sisters answer. As I step into the porch, the smell of bannock floods my senses. Her mother yells up stairs, “Janine is here to play!!” She comes running down from upstairs, in a full sweat. She grabs her bike and we glide through the streets of Melville together.

Once we reach downtown, our first stop is the antique store, also known as “The Cornerstore”, as you can image it’s a store located on the corner of downtown Melville. We open the door and the jiggle of the wind chimes alarm the cash register lady. We step into the store and sniff the air. The dusty and muggy smell approaches us. It’s the type of smell that lingers in an old, run down house. Awaits us, is the cash register lady. The lady’s name-tag reads “Sharon.” Sharon seems to be older, 50 maybe 60 years old. She is short, plump, white, and she has short salt and pepper hair. Sharon, smiles at me and I smile back.

We start looking around, peeking through the dusty old books and picking up and putting down trinkets. As I step left and step right, I feel the presence of Sharon following us around. I never thought anything of it, because she’s obviously just bored and she probably didn’t want us to break anything. Five minutes has gone by and her company is now overbearing. She hasn’t said a word to us. The closeness of her breathing is beginning to make me uncomfortable. My friend I go separate ways in the pathways of the store. Sharon is lurking around every move my friend makes. She is acting like tiger in the wilderness about to attack on its prey. My friend picks up a tiny little butterfly trinket and immediately Sharon shrieks and accuses my friend of trying to steal the trinket. In panic and distress I go over to them to get a better understand of what is going on. Before I get the chance to, my friend is instantly escorted out of the store. I grab my bike and peddle after her, she is sobbing in shame. She explains to me that she is not sobbing over the trinket misunderstanding, she was sobbing in shame of the colour of her skin.

When I Feel at Home

I wake up by the sound of my alarm clock beeping. The alarm clock itself is always the most annoying, and deafening sound in the morning. Its 7:00am, my nose is cold, and my room is pitch black. I try to go back to sleep, but I can already hear my Dad coming down to the basement to wake me. His inconsiderably loud heavy feet stomping in the kitchen above my bedroom or coming down the stairs makes it impossible to fall back asleep. It was either that, or the water running through the pipes when someone showered, the sound of water is so intense, it sounds as if the water is going to pour right on me, or the fact that my dad would peek his head in and roar, “its time to get up.” At this time I knew I only had, 30 minutes to fully prepare myself to get out the door. Growing up with only my Dad and my brother, getting ready fast is the only option. In this time, the both of them had time to make and eat breakfast, time to scrape the snow of the sidewalk and the vehicle, and pack the entire luggage in the car for a weekend of hockey.

It’s 8:00am and we are already loaded on the bus packed of rowdy hockey boys. We are on the snow-covered road to Saskatoon for a hockey tournament. Immediately, after being on the road for less than 30 minutes I fall asleep, I stay asleep until we reach the out skirts of the big city. The traffic begins to slowly thicken. As I look out the window and see how small the other cars are compared to us. I think of a big whale in the ocean surrounded by small schools of fish.

Once, we arrive at the rink the boys are getting very enthusiastic and eager to get off the crowded and tightly packed bus. They unload their hockey equipment out from underneath. Hearing the banging and clanging from underneath my feet makes me impatient to get off as well. We all head into the building with the arena made out of ice, that us Canadian’s like to call the barn. I can already smell the cold air from the freezing cold service with the funny lines and shapes painted on it, the pungent smell of sweat from equipment that’s impossible to ignore, and the smell of rink deep fried burgers and fries cooking in the canteen.

The game is starting; the boys are ready to get on the ice. While they enter the arena Thunderstruck by ACDC plays in the background. “Thunder!” echo’s throughout the rink, its all I can hear as they begin skating circles around their end of the ice. We find our spot on the cold, solid, wooden benches. Surrounding me are fans clapping and cheering with passion. As I stand in the cold, my hands warmed by my mitts, I watch the puck drop and they begin to play for the next 60 minutes, I feel totally and completely at home.