My Lucky Lanyard

About Lindsay Benster

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My mom’s obsessed with lanyards. Not obsessed in a can’t-stop-thinking-about-it way, obsessed in a need-them-with-me-at-all-times-and-will-panic-if-I-can’t-find-them- and-probably-going-to-keep-10-back-up-pairs-just-in-case way. Like most obsessions, it spawned from a practical, feasible use that maybe became a bit… eccentric. It started with carpool to various sports. In her defense, all the parents had them. Stu, Crevin, Heidi, Melinda. They all whipped them out and spun them around their hands until their index fingers became fully enveloped like a python preparing its prey. Then they’d fling them back around the other way, alternating directions. It was a sign we youngins learned to mean basketball practice is over or the game is about to begin.

Our parents were perhaps overly-involved, as they drove carpool like it was their job and attended every tournament, every game, every scrimmage, cheering like it was the NBA play-offs and we were all league MVPs. The moms specialized in providing perfect post-practice snacks, while the dads had the whole fathers-of-athletic-daughters on lockdown. Crevin, Karina’s dad, held the title of Head Coach. Stu, Sarah’s dad, worked the scoreboard. And my Dad was Eastside Basketball Academy’s number 1 fan. We lost more games than we won, which is my generous way of saying I don’t think we ever did win. But we had all the elements that truly mattered working in our favor: we had the snacks, we had the fans, and technically we had the power of the scoreboard in our hands.

In the summer of 2007, my mom was responsible for driving Sarah, Karina and me down to Point Guard College in Oregon- a preeminent basketball camp designed to develop both sport and life skills. Crevin unexpectedly and tragically passed a few months prior. He had been our coach that season. He taught us a new zone defense, he showed us the secret to a quick cross-over, he instilled the importance of team chemistry and above all else he taught us to love the game. “The key to winning is a good defense,” he’d always tell us. His death was shocking, incomprehensible.

Attending point guard college was the last plan he had organized for Karina, so my parents, Stu and Sarah’s mom, Heidi, made it their mission on earth to ensure Karina attended that camp, signing Sarah and I up in the process.

The first day of camp quickly revealed the existence of muscles we hadn’t become acquainted with quite yet, as the introductory strength work left the three of us straight-legged, unable to bend our knees, hobbling everywhere we went. The third day of camp we were cry-laughing through every movement, and the fourth day we essentially lost the ability to do anything but sit.

“Karina! Karina! Karina!” I desperately called out. She whipped around the corner, as fast as her unnaturally sore legs would let her.

“Are you okay?” She asked, barreling through the bathroom door.

“I need help,” I said, half-smiling because I never anticipated requiring assistance on such a task at this point in my young-life and half-smiling because I knew this was a moment she’d never let me forget.

“You do need help child,” Karina laughed, as she limped over and lifted me off the toilet.

Either our bodies’ numbed or we adjusted to this new norm of pain, as by the end of camp basketball was fun, friends were fun, camp was fun, life was lightless and carefree and Sarah, Karina and I laughed endlessly at the great toilet rescue. 

The last night of camp held the “Tournament of Champions.” An all-night, 3-on-3 tournament in which small children already possessing a surplus of energy hyped up extra on red bull and 5-hour energies and played until the following morning. At the end of the night, or beginning of the morning (hard to say) the camp traditionally held a candlelight vigil. Counselors passed around white candlesticks topped with a small protective cone to prevent wax from dripping down our fingers. Alongside the candle, they dispersed the token camp lanyard. We each held our candlestick and reflected on our time at camp, on the lessons we learned, on the new skills and friends. I glanced over at Karina. Strong, sarcastic, always-had-her-face-on Karina, and I watched as a few rogue tears slid down her cheeks. I leaned over and embraced her, carefully maneuvering the candle away. Sarah joined in, and the three of us held each other up as our dads had coached us to do.

Ten years later Sarah’s Dad would pass as well. His death not unexpected but tragic and heartbreaking nonetheless. And we held candles for him too. I, to this day, carry my point guard college lanyard with me. I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with lanyards, but I don’t dare to part from it. I don’t have any kids to drive around carpool, I don’t play basketball anymore and I live farther than I’d like from Karina and Sarah. But I think of quick cross-overs and scoreboards and loving Dads and loyal friends who will lift you off the toilet in your time of need with every spin of the lanyard around my finger. And I don’t think of loss, I think of wins. I think of the key to winning every time I unlock my car. I think of how the winning team doesn’t always have a winning scoreboard.

About Lindsay Benster

Lindsay is an emerging writer with a small scattering of published pieces. She currently works as a freelance writer and research associate at the University of California, San Diego. Lindsay can be reached at lindsaybenster@gmail.com or (206) 230-0707.

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