I Remember Well: Recreation and Spiritual Striving

By Nola Hanson

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I’m in Waukesha, Wisconsin for my grandmother’s funeral. I’m playing basketball at the YMCA. 

Older people walk in circles on the track above the court. A man stops, leans over the railing with his forearms and looks down at me.

I’m trying to hit a spot that hasn’t changed since the first time I aimed for it in the same gym, 

at age five, when I looked like this: 

My mom signed me up for basketball camp; she bought me a heather gray tank top to practice in; I remember the adhesive strip that ran down the right side of it.




I didn’t want to take it off, I thought it was part of the uniform.

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I remember the wood, nylon nets, the orange rims. The mesh jerseys we used for scrimmages. The silver whistle that hung from from a black braided rope on my coaches neck. 

During games I’d stick my tongue out and lick; from the heel of my palm to the tip of my middle finger. I’d lift my feet up under me, and slide my hands over the rubber soles of my sneakers to remove the dust, so I could hear them squeak. I had to stop after a teammate saw me, and said that’s the same thing as licking the floor and I couldn’t tell her: I know. 

At Sunday school when I asked what heaven is they said picture your favorite place; 

it’s like going there and never having to leave. I imagined the court I’d seen at the Milwaukee Bucks game, but all of the people were gone except me. 

I remember being six, sitting on a 5th graders lap in the auditorium. Everyone sat in the dark and faced the same direction, reading lyrics to Christmas songs that were printed on transparencies and projected onto a screen. When he found out I wasn’t male assigned at birth he screamed, pushed me off, and said he was scared of me. 

“My body was given back to me, sprawled out, distorted, recolored, clad in mourning…” (Fanon, 259) 

I felt like I lost a game I didn’t agree to play in the first place.

Recently, back home, my mom and I stood in my sisters kitchen. She asked did I remember what I said to her at the mall the day before my grandfather’s funeral?

No, I forgot. 

She said, “You looked at me with tears in your eyes and said ‘What the fuck am I supposed to wear?’”

Which meant, of course “Who am I supposed to be?”

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” (Du Bois, 2)

My grandfather, Leif, was the star quarterback on his football team in college, and after that, a World War 2 bomber pilot. 

He was the person who taught me how to dribble. I remember his sun spotted hands floating over my head in the driveway. 

We would go to Swing Time Driving Range and hit balls together. One of the last times we went, he fell and hit his back, smack dab in the middle of a wooden divider that separated the squares of fake grass. 

He died when I was sixteen, in his living room with his mouth open next to an American flag folded up in a glass case, and a model of a Boeing B-17 airplane.

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My cousin Nels eats Mexican food out of a plastic rust colored container. His spoon has a molded rubber grip at the end of it, and he drinks his Coke out of a big cup with a straw and a lid that twists off. 

He says he pictures me skipping rope. The rhythm of it, the sound like a rubber band under my feet. He says he remembers the feeling and when he thinks of me he feels it in his body. 

He says the last time my grandmother came to see him, she didn’t even make it around the corner to look at him. She leaned over the back of his hospital bed and kissed him on the top of the head.

The more one forgets himself… the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it.” (Frankl, 133)

4.17. 2019 

I’m sitting at a table with Takahiro Yamamoto, and 10 undergraduate students. 

He says, “Forgetting is important.” 

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While hitting the heavy bag at the New Bed Stuy Boxing Gym– home of former world champions Riddick Bowe and Mark Breland– I tear a ligament called the Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex. They call it the meniscus of the wrist. I get a cortisone injection and train on it for two years. 

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My friend and I are walking in Chinatown. We go into a Vietnamese restaurant. She swore there used to be fish tanks here, or is she going crazy? The waiter says yes, there were. They renovated a year ago and made room for more tables. When we order, the waiter calls her sir.

She says that when she started taking T blockers and estrogen, she had this feeling, like: oh, so this is what it’s like to be a person.

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My new roommate tells me she saw her ex for the first time in 15 years: “She was such a cute dyke,” she says, “…now he’s just an old man.”

  • Works cited: 
  • Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984. Print.

  • Du, Bois W. E. B, and Brent H. Edwards. The Souls of Black Folk. Oxford [England: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
  • Merton, Thomas. Zen and the Birds of Appetite. [New Directions], 1968. Print.

    Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. New York : Grove Weidenfeld, 1991. Print.

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