Written: 2nd Jul 2004 | Last Updated: 2nd Jul 2004
Very often, the little things in life are the ones which keep us fuelled up, positive and in love with the whole box of tricks otherwise known as existence.
Years ago, when our son was maybe eleven, he was crazy about football - Australian Rules football, to be precise. And as luck would have it, one of the boys next-door was a sporty type, and although he was three-and-a-half years older, he and our son often went down the road to the suburban playing field to kick and catch the oval ball.
Both boys delighted in thumping it as far as possible, determined to outdo one another in typically competitive, masculine fashion. With the age disadvantage, our son may have been smaller than the boy next-door, but he made up for it with natural flair.
Typically, after an hour or so of kicking and chasing, the footy warriors would come home sweaty and too exhausted to muster any immediate interest in homework. They’d sit on their front steps or ours - laughing and arguing happily about who did the longest kick or grabbed the best mark.
One afternoon, the playing field seemed too far away - as was sometimes the case. Instead of kicking the ball to one another in our dog-dominated front yard, the boys and ball retired to the neighbours’ back yard. From my kitchen, I could hear loud thumps as each boy attempted to kick the leather off the ball. They talked incessantly, enjoying the sport.
After a little while, everything went quiet. There was a squeak at our back gate, and both boys came in looking for something extra-long to help rescue the football from an altercation with a tree. I offered to assist, but they were determined to undo the snafu themselves.
What had happened was the footy had landed way up in a wintering jacaranda. It was stuck forever as far as I could see, embraced by possessive, arm-like branches. It was too high for climbing, so the boys began launching things at it like so many bombs and javelins in the hope that one of them would hit the target and force the ball back to earth.
Of course, the first missile - a well-pitched tennis ball - got snared…then a garden fork went up and hooked a branch…a rake went up and stayed there…a broom followed and so did two enormously long, telescopic pool brush/scoop handles. Eventually, the jacaranda looked like a Christmas tree – and the red footy sat sturdy and defiant at the top like a star, refusing to budge. The whole construction looked rather wonderful, with fork tongs and aluminium poles shining in the weak, afternoon sunlight.
The boys now had a real problem. Not only couldn’t they kick the footy around, but neither household could sweep, dig, rake or clean pools until the implements were released from the tree. With intense discussion and considerable effort, each item was eventually retrieved…and the trouble-making football finally tumbled down to the boys’ waiting hands. The camaraderie displayed during the rescue mission was marvellous to behold.
During kick-time a few months later, another football - a brightly coloured one - got launched into a different tree in the neighbours’ yard. This time, it was trapped somewhere in amongst massive fans of a very tall palm - and completely unreachable.
There it stayed for several seasons, ensconced beside the home of a family of (appropriately) laughing kookaburras. That ball didn’t make it back to earth for ages, but when it finally did, the grinning boy next-door gave it a buff and returned it to our son…a memento of those golden afternoons.