Redding wants nothing more than to play football, something that is denied him here in Mexico. When he grows up he wants to be a professional football player, a running back. But he's never played in his life; there aren't teams in San Miguel, there aren't boys who've ever touched a football, there isn't the interest. If you play soccer, it would be a different story. But this is a boy who roots for the Ravens, follows the Steelers, covers the Vikings, knows every player in every league, (and just bought a book of stickers and an NFL guidebook in Spanish at the local grocery store, only to find out that the stickers were actually extra and not available in Mexico) but is woefully out of touch with the day-to-day realities of U.S sports. And all that they encompass.
We were talking about our summer 2014 plans, that I want us to all go to Southeast Asia and bike around Ankor Wat, drink Lao Beer on the Mekong, sweat our asses off hiking through the hill country of Thailand, and finally end up on a beach in Phuket eating ginger crab. Reddy shyly told me he would love to go to football camp next summer in the States. I didn't know how to sugar coat it, this coming from a boy who has never played football in his life, save the few afternoons when Sam goes with him to the corner park in our neighborhood and they throw the pigskin among the agave cactus and the thorn-studded lime trees.
I told him, in my typically blunt and unkind fashion, "Redd, you're going to be out of your league." I didn't know how else to say it. He didn't even know what that meant. (How do you enroll a 12-year-old boy in an American football camp when he hasn't done anything more than throw a ball up and down the cobblestoned sidewalks on his mile-long walk to school, yet his fellow campers have been putting on pads and going to Pop Warner since they were five?) But to his huge, incredible, wonderful credit, he was full of bluster and enthusiasm and didn't see anything wrong whatsoever with this picture. I told him he'd have to wait until summer 2015 as we are going to SE Asia next summer so there's no football camp in summer 2014. He did some quick math and realized he'd be an old 13 in the summer of '15.
I also told him how big these kids would be. He's 70 pounds, four inches wide, and way less than five feet tall. And he's almost 12.
|Redding at the State Fair, happy to ride solo with a couple of local girls|
He started jumping around the bed (we were talking at bedtime): "I'll be up against the younglings, the sweet 13s, the young 13s, the fresh kills, the fresh little ones. I'll be the street smart, the savvy, I'll teach them how to play. I'll be the old guy, the old 13. I can toughen up and know the routes and I'll teach them. I know they have things like 'the shimanny nani' and the 'go left and jump over that dude.' I'll know the routes." (He's talking about plays; he doesn't even know the term for a "play." He calls it a route, and gives it nonsense terms, and isn't the least bit self conscience about his utter lack of knowledge of rules or strategy.) His belief in himself and his ability to join a team, a camp of American boys who have been playing for years and know all the routes, is so absolute, so without fear or doubt, that I know he could do it. But first we have to get to Cambodia.
|Bulking up on tacos at the State Fair|
|An old photo that I loaded by accident (same jpeg number as the one above). But it's actually so fitting. Here is Redding doing some weird karate on the terrace of our house in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, April 2012.|