We are a people of worries: Will my family sleep well through the night? Are my children, scattered between careers and colleges, doing OK today? Will Jabari Parker stay healthy during his freshman year, or will he Kyrie Irving his way into the NBA? Some days, you just need a little extra assurance.
When my kids moved away, they were never far from my thoughts or feelings. Miles down the road was one thing, but when time zones began to separate us, I had to come up with something, to find something to keep them closer by.
During one daughter's semester abroad at Beiwai University in Beijing, she sent me a green T-shirt with bold Chinese calligraphy across the front. I still have it. When I wear it in these neighboring towns awash in light and dark blue college logos, it reminds me of her. When I'm wearing that jersey, I like to think that both of us have good luck.
When my youngest daughter shipped all of her school term papers, projects and essays back east from California, I plucked a few colorful file folders she had labeled for recycling from the stacks. Many nights, we had talked or texted while she pulled an all-nighter in a Los Angeles library for some paper or exam, so these files felt familiar and seemed, in my hands, to resonate with good memories and energy. I stow a few on my desk at home, but I'm not sure if I'm keeping them safe or vice versa.
One day when I was a child, I refused to go to school, as most every kid has. My mother later told me that I offered a caveat: I would go if I could wear only green clothes, just like my then-hero Robin Hood. (We didn't even have a TV, so my fantasy world must have been fully engaged.) She sent me off feeling like the king of the world, bedecked in a green jacket, green shirt, green socks and green pants. Likewise, a few weeks ago, a sweet, quiet neighborhood boy announced to his parents he wanted to go to Halloween as a copperhead snake. They found a brown, hourglass camouflage body, crafted a cool diamond-shaped head. He slithered bravely among the pirates and princesses.
My brother once gave me a pair of his used Air Jordans. Who among us hasn't wanted, at least once, to be like Mike? While I still can't do a 360 dunk, I do feel a certain bounce on those special days when I'm in MJ's shoes.
Everyone in my family seems to have an affinity for hearts, too, though it manifests in different ways. Me? I find heart-shaped stones everywhere I go. I have a drawer full. When I feel under siege or in doubt, I take one out and carry it around for a day.
I sometimes worry that I may have misplaced some of my talismans, hoping they're not lost forever. I'll inevitably need them: Some days, I wonder if even my old truck will start.