We got there early and bought 50 tickets. The boys walked up and down the crowded school cafeteria where the baskets were displayed, weighing the merits of each prize. After much deliberation and discussion, they set about stuffing the ticket boxes for their favorite baskets. When the winning raffle ticket numbers were announced at halftime, ours tickets numbers were not among them.However, our six-year-old neighbor, Justin, did win. He won a Lego-themed basket, with every imaginable Lego set teetering out the edge of the confines of the plastic wrap. He smiled wide, revealing his tiny white teeth, like miniature Chiclets. “I won,” he whispered to my sons on the way out after the game. The hesitation is his voice indicated that he could scarcely believe it.
“That’s great,” responded Short, “we’re on our way to go choose which basket we won too.”Uh, oh. He clearly did not understand how these things work. “Short, Honey, we did not win. I’m sorry.” I made an exaggerated sad face, like a clown that just got fired.
Short still was not comprehending reality versus desire. “You told me to pick which basket I wanted to win, and I pick all. But I will take the Lego one,” he offered magnanimously.The Husband stifled a laugh. “Oh, Short, I’m sorry. We lost.”
Lost was a word Short’s four-year-old brain was familiar with. Short lost when playing soccer against Tall. Short lost when playing cards against Tall. Short lost when racing Tall across the yard. Pretty much any time Tall was in the picture, Short lost.If you’ve ever seen one of those time-lapse photography things on the weather channel with the sky going from sunny to violently stormy and approaching hurricane levels in approximately three seconds, then you know what we were dealing with.
“Nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!” squealed Short, exposing his inner tantrum, and then flinging his compact body on the school hallway’s dirty floor. “I am sick of losing! I want to be the winner!”Other people were starting to stare. People we’d never met, people we were good friends with, young people, old people, teacher people. I could only pretend for so long that I was not related to the pile of tears and fury on the floor.
“Noooooooo!!!!!” the moaning and writhing continued. “I hate you! It’s not fair!”The Husband and I exchanged a look, a look that said Get that child off the floor and out to the car as fast as humanly possible. That’s when I remembered that we had walked to the school, not driven.
We live one mile from the school. A mile says Hey, walking is good exercise! A mile says If you drive, you’re really a big wimp. A mile says, Walking with your family is super-fun and great for togetherness time and happy memories. What a mile forgets to tell you is that it is not quite so enticing when 25% of your group boycotts the walking component of the walking home equation. The Husband ended up carrying our screaming child home that evening.Fast forward to yesterday.
I was reluctant to attend the basketball game after what happened last year. But, like an adventurer who goes to the Antarctic and loses a limb to frostbite but then later decides it was still overall a “fun” trip and maybe she should do it again, I thought: What can possibly go wrong? It might even be fun!The game was fun. The cookie-buying was fun. The raffle ticket discussion? Not so much.
“Short,” I began quietly, “we are probably not going to win a basket. Just know that, okay? We are not wasting $50 this time, we’re just buying two tickets, one for each of you. And you most likely will not win. Remember that.”Short nodded solemnly, then said, “Remember how Justin won last time? And he carried the big big big GIANT basket all the way down the very long hall and how I did NOT win? Do you remember, Mommy? Because I was sad.”
He looked like he might cry now.
“Short, I need to tell you something. The chances of you knowing someone who wins are very great. You will know one of the winners. But the chances of your number getting picked are small.”
I leaned in and gave him a tight hug. Then I said, “Tell you what, Short, after the 3rd quarter, we’ll leave the game early and get ice-cream on the way home. Okay?”
“Sure. Okay,” he shrugged. He and Tall walked through the basket display area and put their tickets in the boxes. “Remember how sad I was last time?” I overheard him say to Tall again and again, like a bad 80’s song on a permanent loop.
When we started to sneak out after the 3rd quarter, Short tugged on my sleeve. “Mommy, we have to check if we won or not! Remember?” His face was full of magic and hope mingling in an intoxicating cocktail of kindergarten delusion.
“Short, uh, uh … this year it turns out you have to go online the next day to see if you won.” It was not a complete lie, you could check online. Or just read the posters right now in the hall to see if your name was there.Happy with my answer, Short, Tall, The Husband, and I started to walk outside. I would delay the bad news by 24-hours and reveal our misfortune and bad luck to Short in the privacy of our own home, where he could have a hissy fit as loud and long as he wanted.
Suddenly, my friend Rebecca ran out the door after us. “MOV! Wait!”At first, I thought I might've dropped my sweater or forgotten my water bottle. “Hi Rebecca! What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong: you won a basket!” She pumped her fist in the air, a gesture of glory.Short turned abruptly to face Rebecca, then he looked at me. “Did she say we won, Mommy?”
“Yes, she did! I’ll go in and get it.”Short was more baffled than ever. Last year, we bought lots of tickets and got our hopes up: nothing. This year we bought the minimum number and mashed our hopes into the ground: winner.
I walked back to the cafeteria and approached a lady holding a clipboard. She was directing other winners to their prospective baskets. “Name, please?” she asked me politely.“Hi. I’m MOV. I’m not sure which basket we—”
“Oh, you’re MOV!” she beamed. “Kirsti,” she called another woman over, “Kirsti, this is MOV. MOV, you won the grand prize. The basket is called Toys Forever and is worth $500!”I could feel my face flush crimson. The Kirsti lady handed me the biggest basket I had ever seen except for on TV game shows, filled with all manner of toys and gift certificates. Short was going to go wild when I walked out that door to where they were waiting outside.
I thanked her profusely and tried to balance myself under the weight of the basket. Someone pushed open the glass door for me. Tall and Short gasped collectively. “We won THAT?” squealed Short. Nothing this exciting had ever happened to him.The Husband asked tentatively, “Which one of you bid your ticket on this prize? Is this the one you bid on, Tall?”
“No, Pop, I bid on the one with all the spy stuff.”“Then congratulations, Short!” cheered The Husband, “You are a winner.”
Short smiled enthusiastically. “I want to share it with Tall. I’m a good sharer.”Tall nodded. “Thanks, Short. I would share with you too if I won.”
Then Short let out a delighted scream, so different from last year, “I won! I won! Yaaaaaaaaaaaayyy, me! I finally finally won!”Yay, Short! You are a winner.