Posted by Debra Solomon Baker on October 16, 2011
Yes, Max won a trophy yesterday. He swept his opponents, 5-0, at the first Gateway Chess Tournament of the year, and while any mom would have beamed watching her kid race up in his lucky Michigan t-shirt and shake hands with the event organizer, taking home that jewel to add to his growing collection, I keep thinking about something different, about something more.
I keep thinking about Charlie.
I don’t know much about the kid. Max delivers semi-regular reports of Charlie did this at school today, Charlie did that. Did you know, Mommy, that Charlie has autism and that he got up and spoke about his life? Isn’t that brave? And that Charlie keeps a really cool notebook filled with machines that he draws? And Charlie cried yesterday because of this and because of that?
He seems to care about this kid. Just because.
So, here we are at this city-wide chess tournament and Charlie, who is there with his mother, waiting, waiting, waiting, while his younger sister competes, looks up from his Nintendo DS and says, “I wish someone would play chess with me.”
I find my son.
“I know you must be tired from competing all day, but Charlie is hoping to play chess with someone…”
It’s a no-brainer. Off he goes.
“Should I play easy on him? Let him win? But not make it too obvious? Or should I just play regular?”
I don’t know, Buddy. I really don’t.
But he knows what to do, my son. Of course he does.
Engrossed in my book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I don’t watch them play, but I hear, “That’s a good move, Charlie.” “You’re doing well.”
They finish one game and play another. “You won that one, Charlie,” he says.
No, Max, you won that one, because winning cannot always mean a bunch of pawns cheering on a mighty king. Winning cannot always mean a capturing of the weak, of the unprotected, of the fallen.
Sometimes, my son, yes, we win by losing. Or by caring. Or by just showing up and being there.
So you carried home two trophies, yesterday, Max. And though one is invisible and lives not among the others on your bookshelf, but, instead, towering inside the collection in your heart, it still sparkles. And is beautiful.
Congratulations to my champion.