I grew up with dragons in my house. They weren’t imaginary. Two of them held court in the living room. Each one, black as coal, sat atop an andiron on either side of the large fireplace. Here I am at six standing between them the month after we moved in.
I loved the dragons. No one else I knew had even one. My admiration grew at Easter when we woke up to find a jelly bean or two on their tongues.
I never thought they were scary but some people did. And some people also thought our two black cats were scary and if the cats were in the front yard, they’d make haste to cross the street instead of maybe crossing paths. The cats were sisters, and mother said we needed to take care of them, because due to superstition, no one wanted to adopt a black cat. At Halloween, we always kept them inside so they wouldn’t be the victims of some prank.
My dad did once refer to my mother as a witch which she immediately denied, clearly annoyed. They weren’t having a fight. I was sick with a cold and she was in the linen closet finding me a homeopathic remedy from her shoe box full of jars. We didn’t go to doctors very often.
Back to the dragons. I don’t know if my mother always knew or if she figured it out over time but the dragons original color was not black. The prior owners must have used the fireplace a lot and the soot coated them. One day, mom unscrewed the two dragons and took them somewhere to be cleaned. When they returned, they were magnificent, bronze, shiny dragons. They took my breath away.
Many years later my mother offered them to me, I took them. Now they are in my living room next to our fireplace, minus the andirons. They can stand on their own. And I’m sure someone else has a dragon or two of their own but I’ve never met them.
Each year, as December draws to a close, we list our thanks from the current year and our hopes and wishes for the coming year. This has been our practice for over 20 years. Nowhere in 2022’s hopes and wishes did I list “walk the red carpet” as I didn’t know it was in my future. But when Mary Anne and her teammates from the 1976 US Women’s Olympic Basketball team were nominated for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, it became a possibility for me to walk the carpet with her. When the team was notified that they would be inducted with the class of 2023, it became our future. Last August we walked the red carpet with NBA greats who were being inducted along with the great women’s ’76 team. Like the other inductees, Mary Anne now has her own Hall of Fame custom ruby and diamond gold ring with her name engraved inside, and a Hall of Fame jacket with a custom lining she designed. It has images of her medals and logos from the teams she played on for the US and in France.
Before I met Mary Anne, I’d heard she played basketball in Europe for years but no one mentioned the Olympics. I guess they thought I already knew. When I heard that she played in Europe, it made as much sense to me as saying she had been hula hooping in Europe for many years. I translated it as a trust fund kid who had been goofing off in Europe for years. That was far from the truth. I didn’t know there were women’s basketball club teams, there were country championship competitions, there were competitions for the European champions. I didn’t know that players on the top or championship teams were paid and received benefits including apartments and cars.
Over the years, she has told me tales of her travels and adventures as a player and I’ve encouraged her to write them down but she doesn’t want to be a writer. So, I decided to start with one piece. Next up may be the adventures with her French club team in Sophia, Bulgaria, aka the Peoples Republic of Bulgaria, when it was a communist country, a close ally of the Soviet Union. I’ve started taking notes.
See my essay in the latest issue of the Under Review, a literary journal with a sports slant: https://www.underreviewlit.com/issue-winter-2024