My son bought a basketball hoop last week with his birthday money. He had been coveting other people’s hoops in the neighborhood. But I kept putting him off. I didn’t want a big monolith in my backyard. I live in a zero-lot line house. But he started playing basketball in PE at school, and at those other hoops around the neighborhood, and he had enough money. So, I finally acquiesced. I asked him to go online and do the research and figure out what he wanted. As he is with all things, he was very specific: 50 inch backboard, portable and height adjustable.

We went down to our local Sports Authority where the hoop was on sale, checked it out and asked some questions. The sales guy, in his late 20’s with a ponytail and earring, was waxing nostalgic about the hoop he had as a kid. This journey in to his past may have been why, when I asked him if I would be able to put it together by myself, he said sure, everything except for the last step. You see, I am 5’ 2” and my husband, though taller, tore his calf muscle a few weeks prior and I didn’t want to have to rely on him or to injure him further.

It took two employees to put the box into my car and off we went. My husband helped me get it into the garage where I proceeded to open it and lay out all of the pieces. This is how my dad taught me to put something together, go through everything first (instructions, piece count, necessary tools), and make sure you have what you need. To say I was intimidated, once everything was out of the box, would be an understatement. There were enough parts to create a mini space shuttle. And that part of being able to do it myself must have been a joke. Ponytail sales guy may have been having some flashbacks of his basketball youth or hallucinations caused by current psychotropic drug consumption.

I had to call my husband off the injured reserve list and away from the TV. It took us all day to put it together. All the while, the kids kept coming out to the garage asking “is it done yet? When is it going to be finished?” Like little mosquitoes buzzing around. And I used a wrong piece at an early part in the assembly and we (well, my husband) had to take some of the hoop apart and put it back together properly. There was some cursing. At that point, I just put my head down and apologized profusely and made some sexual promises that I have since made good on. Works every time.

But we finished. And the assembled hoop looked good lying on its side in the garage. We left it there overnight because we didn’t have 419 pounds of sand handy, even though we live 2 miles from the beach. A friend brought over the sand, bought from Lowes, the next day. Eight fifty-pound bags to fill up the base so that it won’t tip over when we have our next hurricane. It took three people to fill it up, stand it up and position it just so, behind the line of the garage so that we won’t get a fine from the homeowners’ association.

And that was the beginning of my son’s hoop dreams coming true.

It’s been a week since the hoop went up. And I’ve changed my mind about it being an unwanted monolith. I’m already reaping the benefits. Neighborhood kids have come over to play, the sounds of their laughs and cheers filtering in to the house. My husband and his daughter spent a few long hours out there during her spring break. My son goes out there by himself and works off some of his excess energy, of which he has a lot. Even my daughter, on the petite side for a nine year-old, is out there tossing the basketball around.

And these are the real gifts of having a hoop. The kids are out there, out of the house, together, talking, laughing, not fighting and connecting without even really realizing that they are. I was out there yesterday with just my two kids and in the course of playing double bounce, we had talked about a lot: their day at school, kids in their class, wanting to be a pediatrician. And in those 15 minutes, I learned so much more than if we were inside, sitting at the table, watching TV, doing our own thing. Thanks for the gift, Will.