Well, that was a sunset...

When I was home over the holidays, I was reminded of just how sweet the sunsets are at good old 138 Jefferson Street. Being in town has it’s negatives compared to living off the beaten path (it does have some benefits too) but one of the perks of growing up where I did was the sunsets. East Greenville, along with adjoining towns of Pennsburg and Red Hill have the benefit of being perched up on top of a ridge and the area is in a bit of a valley with unobstructed views for a good ways. So when the sun sets, and the sky is clear, you’re in for a show. The above image, which was taken from our deck here in NH, reminded me of that recently and fortunately but unfortunately, we’ve got substantial tree cover so in the summer… sunsets are obscured. Winter it’s a different story and those sunsets I grew up with and was reminded of when I was visiting this past week had me thinking of that winter I spent back at a lonely basketball court just on the outskirts of town at the Upper Perkiomen Pool.

I’d say it was somewhere in my 8th grade year and Mr. Schubert, my gym teacher, said one month: “It’s basketball month…”. So each gym class, we’d suit up and go through the motions on the court for several periods until we had “honed” our skills to proficiency and then we were turned loose for match ups of 2 on 2 or 4 on 4. The gym was fairly large with the court taking up the center stage but the bleachers could be folded back into themselves along the wall where there were additional backboards that could be lowered into place. I want to say there were at least 4 or maybe even 6 additional hoops along the wall (2 or 3 on each side). I was “ok”. Actually, I was terrible. And that frustrated me. All I wanted to do was play football in the fall when I was a kid or play baseball in the summer and ride my bike. Basketball? Forget it. But that’s not to say Mr. Schubert didn’t turn me on to the fact that basketball is super fun. Well, one afternoon in gym I got my ass handed to me. I couldn’t dribble without taking my eyes off the ball which, if you do play.. You need to be able to look up and not look at the ball. Shooting? Throw that out the window figuratively speaking. All my buddies were good if not really good. A bunch played on the 8th grade team and subsequently went on to play varsity. Some of which played in college. But that gym session got me frustrated with myself and I vowed it wouldn’t happen again.

So starting that week, I remember heading back to that basketball court behind the pool. It was a walk from my house, down hill and no one EVER played there. So I was almost guaranteed to have privacy. So all that winter, and it was a relatively dry winter if I recall, I practiced. And practiced. I set up dribble drills. Shooting drills. Lay up drills. Jump shots from just about everywhere in, on and around the key. Made routines up where I’d have to do a few things before I shot. 3 point rally’s. Running dribble drills. Running up and down the court with challenges to see how far out I could jump and make a lay up. Etc. Etc. I really put my nose to the grind stone. By the end of that winter I was feeling much better since I had practiced pretty much every day after school. I’d come home, do my homework and then hustle back to the court and practice till the sun was just on the horizon and waning. And that was the special part and hence the sunset reference. I’d play till the sun essentially went down. The courts faced the ridge in the distance for the setting sun. So the court lit up with this pink and purple light show. I’d have to stuff my hands down my jeans every so often to get them to warm up again but I soldiered on. I had to be careful because the rule at 138 Jefferson was: Come home before the sun sets. I’d stretch that one more than once.

I became so dedicated to practicing at that small court that I’d ride my bike to the local Ames, buy a set of nets and then proceed to walk the distance to the pool and back again with a 8′ wooden step ladder to put the new nets up. I had worn out the two ratty ones that were hanging on by threads. I had retied them more than once using a 50 gallon drum which was a bit too short, hence the step ladder. And I didn’t want my Dad’s help. I think I did it one afternoon after school before he got back from work and then high tailed it back again with the step ladder so he wouldn’t know. Why I did that? Not quite sure. I was determined to have that spot all to myself to practice in secret for some reason. But those sun sets? Well, those are what kept me company. I’d continue to go back there after school in the winter throughout my years in high school too for some mental space. It had become a bit of a ritual to grab my basketball, walk back to the pool and shoot hoops by myself. I have fond memories of that winter and the subsequent years being turned loose playing basketball with friends on a slightly more equal playing field..