Kickball for a Home
“In one quarter mile, take a right.”
A quarter mile? Are you kidding me? I’m passing through USC’s campus, in blistering heat, when my BFF Siri notifies me that I have another quarter mile to WALK. It is nearly 100 degrees outside, I’m in jeans, boots and a button up. A leisurely stroll on USC grounds has turned into a trek through the desert. Where is this place?
I’m headed to a red carpet kickball event, hosted by the Dave Thomas Foundation. Can you believe there are 100,000 children currently in the foster care program that are in need of a forever home? Ugh. So sad.
I see some typical Californian landscapers ahead on the same side of the sidewalk, hard at work. As I approach, I can see them putting down their rakes, hoes and other lawn equipment and gathering back at their truck. God, they must be sweltering in this heat, dying of thirst. This job must really suck. I cross over to the opposite side of the street in search of the event. Out of nowhere, they start chuckling and pointing in my direction.
I hear this one man shout, “¡Mira! Mira esa chica del ella es mas grande.” The others join in, laughing and pointing.
Mira. Look. One of the most despised words in my Spanish memory-bank. And ‘grande’. Doesn’t ‘alta’ mean ‘tall’ and ‘grande’ mean big? I guess it depends on the context- but after hearing it 24/7 in this particular context, I have learned that ‘grande’ means ‘giant’. I can’t believe people think they can get away with openly calling me a ‘giant’ just because they say it in another language- it’s really rude.
I pause while taking a long stride and say, “oh, es eso cierto?” I grit my teeth and stare them down, hoping to catch someone’s eye, but they’re too chicken to look back at me. Now that they’re caught, every single one of them pretends like they don’t see me.
Mira tu madre. Look! Look! Seriously, how rude can you be? Calm down. You can’t change what others think of you and you sure as hell can’t give them power by caring. Just focus on the kickball tournament and have a good time. Shake it off.
I round the corner to the track and field where I check in and pose for some pictures with Wendy and a milkshake in front of a small camera crew and banner. I’m finally here. I don’t have any children of my own. I’m not married nor old enough to really care for a child, so for now, I’ll settle for just doing what I can at events like this.
I ask my guide where the restroom is, he takes me on a brief tour of the facilities. I can see a little girl at the adoption booth come over my way. She follows me to the bathroom. I’m standing at the sink, washing my hands, as she stands in back of me. We make eye contact through the mirror.
“You’re really tall.”
“I know.” I say back. I walk out of the bathroom door and past security, again, she follows. I take out my phone and look down at it. I see her smiling up at me, she squints at the sun in her eyes and tells me, “but I wouldn’t mind having a really tall mommy. All mommies are taller than me and I don’t really care if you’re taller than other mommies.” My heart sinks to my stomach.
I kneel down and look her in the face. “What is your name?”
This poor child.
I’m in no way ready to be a mommy- I travel a lot and I already have FOUR dogs- I can’t adjust my lifestyle quite yet. But, how would a child understand that? So, I hold out my hand and take her to the kickball field. I kick and toss a ball around with her for a few minutes and then I have to leave- I have another event to attend over on the Westside.
I know it’s not much, but I give her a huge hug, spinning her around, high off of the ground. Before I put her down, she tells me she feels like a superhero way up in the sky. I hand her a cold bottle of water, then I pat her on the top of her head and she runs off to play with another little girl.
“You’re really great with her.” a nearby adoption counselor says to me. I smile over to her, thanking her and then finally, I walk away. I can feel the tears burning holes in the back of my eyes.
Take care of yourself, Whitney.