Mafe Maria: Every story has a happy ending if we give it enough time


On the last day of Matt Harpring’s basketball camp I’m listening to Matt, paper in hand, lecturing 85 campers with his NBA experience. Joaquin had asked me to come today 20 minutes earlier than pick-up time so I could be there for the granting of awards.

I don’t expect him to win any of them; he didn’t last year. But Bollo tells me he may get one this time: I’m one of the best ones in my age group! And tomorrow I’m going to be tough and I will win an award. I promise to him that I’ll come; not to see him win, but because he wants me there—award or not.

Harpring talking to about 85 kids from his 2019 summer basketball camp

So Matt has been going on for what feels like eternity on his lecture before announcing the three winners of the Free Throw Award (one for each age group). I watch him show and tell the kids how he does it: He flexes his knees, relaxes, bounces the ball four times, then he pauses. He doesn’t just throw the ball right after bouncing it, no. He. Pauses. He breathes. All the anxious energy leaves… Then, he throws.

Kids listening, all wearing this year's blue shirt. In the middle of them my boy's little head pokes out.

We hear some more from Matt, and then he’s finally ready to look at the names on his paper. He announces the “High School” group winner. Then he moves on to the “College” group.

The winner of the Free Throw award for college is [incomprehensible sound].

Nobody stands up.

Matt repeats: —[incomprehensible name], come up! and he claps his hands.

Nobody comes.

Matt checks with his team: —Did I say that right?. He tries again:

[short incomprehensible sound]-een

My mind perks up and asks “Joakeen?”

Matt corrects himself: —Joe-keen

My mind jumps “Joaquin!”

And my gordito stands up beaming, takes his award, forgets about Matt but somehow ends up shaking his hand and (more importantly to him) high-fives his coaches. Across the distance he looks at me and gives me the brightest I told you smile ever.

I don’t care much about awards, but my eyes got misty.
He wanted this.
And he got it.

Approaching and staying at a distanceNoticing he's busy posing for picturesWaving goodbyeShaking hands

Last year he didn’t get much attention when he tried to say goodbye to Matt. When it was all over today, I asked Are you going to say goodbye to him today?. Earlier in the week he had said he wouldn’t, but the actual answer in the moment was Yes! (of course, this is Joaquin).

I watched this sweet sequence of my little boy waiting (people were lined up for photos), referencing, subtly approaching, and getting a well-deserved handshake.

Joaquin holding his 2019 Free Throw Champion trophy

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