My five-year-old son, Hardy, and I were kicking the soccer ball around the backyard and for the first time Hardy seemed engaged in the game rather than frustrated with the rule of not being able to use his hands. This was big progress. Up until the age of four, Hardy was a city boy, and I have to admit I hadn’t been doing enough to make sports a part of our lives. But since moving to the Island I have been determined to make up for lost time; especially with youth soccer just beginning.

I kicked the ball to Hardy and he launched it halfway to the house, even giving it a boost in the air for a few feet.

“Way to go,” I said. “Now we just need a goal.”

“What’s that?” Hardy asked. Okay, so I’ve been really neglectful about sports.

“Um, that’s what each team kicks the ball into. There’s one on each side of the field.”

Hardy looked around. “I don’t see anything,” he said.

I took off my shirt and placed it on the ground. I found a large rock for the other side. “Here we go,” I said. “A goal.”

Hardy stood still absorbing the moment. Thankfully, I have learned to watch and wait as connections are built in his developing brain. Still, it’s hard because you never know what’s coming.

“It’s not big enough,” Hardy finally said.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “The ball can get through.” I kicked it to demonstrate.

“No,” Hardy said, firmer this time. “It’s not big enough.”

I felt an urge to correct my son. To tell him that I had made a fine goal and that it was now time to play soccer. That was what we had come outside to do rather than have an argument about how big a goal was supposed to be. But I stopped myself and tried to backtrack.

“How about we just go back to kicking,” I said.

Hardy shook his head. “We need a bigger goal.”

“Okay, okay,” I said. “Let’s build a bigger goal.”

We started small. First Hardy took off his shirt and placed it on top of mine.

“Finished,” I said, hopefully.

“Follow me,” Hardy said. He began walking toward the woodpile. In all we added 10 logs to the goal. Some were so heavy I had to drag them across the yard. They were laid end-to-end outlining a very large horseshoe shape. “So the ball won’t roll out of the goal,” Hardy said.

Next, two wicker chairs were placed at opposite ends of the entrance and a series of ropes were connected to the chairs in what can only be described as a cats-in-the-cradle design. Then Hardy began roaming further afield to find more materials.

We emptied our recycling bin and set bottles at various intervals along the sides of the logs. That the threat of broken glass would make the goal completely inoperative didn’t seem to matter much now. All thoughts of an actual game of soccer had vanished when we borrowed our neighbor’s kayak and tied it to one of the wicker chairs.

“In case the other team gets mad and we have to fly away,” Hardy explained.

“Of course,” I agreed nodding my head vigorously. We had been building the goal for over an hour now and I was totally immersed. It was like blocks on steroids.

“How about I drive the car onto the lawn,” I finally suggested. “It will enclose the entire left side of the goal so we won’t have to worry about being attacked by dragons.”

Hardy gave me a look, eerily similar to one I receive often from his mother. “Um, just thinking out loud,” I said.

When we finished, the goal took up almost half the yard. On one hand, I had to admit our construction looked more like the aftermath of a horrible storm. Heck, you couldn’t even tell where the goal began or ended. The soccer ball had long ago gone missing too. But as the two of us stood there surveying our goal I couldn’t help thinking how much more pleasurable the afternoon turned out because I let go of how I thought the afternoon was supposed to unfold and simply followed my son’s lead.


Bill Eville lives in West Tisbury.