― J.K. Rowling
From, “Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban”
Confused by the meaning of a dream the night before, my dad at the breakfast table the next morning used to tell the rest of us, “I had one of the craziest dreams last night. It didn’t make any sense!”
He even accented his bewilderment with a profound shake of his round head when mouthing the word “craziest.”
God rest his beloved soul, my dad gave me a chuckle more than a few times sitting across the kitchen table as we enjoyed Mom’s fried eggs, bacon and biscuits.
I was just a high school lad at the time, and — like most fathers and sons — we butted heads regularly on issues ranging from me taking too long in the bathroom to me leaving too many lights on in the house to me leaving the Memphis Commercial-Appeal in disarray before he had a chance to read it.
Those were the days. When I think back on them now, it always brings a smile. I probably didn’t think it as a teenager, but I do now. Dad was a hoot.
And his dreams were even hootier.
Maybe the man’s “crazy” dreams are a trait I inherited because I’ve had a few of my own. One came recently, just a few nights before Christmas. I have no idea what it meant. Or maybe I’m just not smart enough to figure it out.
I’ll let you decide.
The scene is my senior year (1972-73) in high school, a time that I proudly wore my maroon and tan letterman’s jacket everywhere — to class, to lunch, to the bathroom, to gym, and don’t even think about me not wearing it out in the community. Where I went, it went. Mom did draw the line on church. I can’t say with certainty that the First Baptist Church in Collierville frowned upon such attire, but on Sunday mornings this attire stayed home.
Anyway, that year our basketball team won the district title and finished second in the regionals. That qualified us for substate, which we also won, and that bought us a ticket to Knoxville for the state tournament in what was then called the Small Schools Division.
Here’s where the dream opens. Let’s call it Act 1, Scene 1.
I, and the basketball team, are sitting in a set of gymnasium bleachers. Another couple of hundred people are there also. I have no idea who they are. Standing on the polished floor at the foot of the bleachers is our speaker. And it isn’t the head coach. She is Mrs. Owens, a thirtysomething history teacher I always liked. She is speaking specifically to the basketball team.
I wasn’t there as a player. In both football and basketball, I was the high school’s athletic trainer. I did all the taping and bandaging.
“This will be a tough tournament,” Mrs. Owens told us. “The teams here are so good that you will all have to contribute equally. But there’s a problem. We can’t play anybody who is chopping onions.”
To my recollection, no reason was given. As I looked down, there in my lap was a cutting board, a knife and an onion. And I was chopping it. A teammate named Gary lost somewhere in the crowd was chopping an onion as well.
“I need both Ricky and Gary to come down here,” Mrs. Owens instructed.
We both rose and stepped down the bleachers to the floor where the history teacher awaited. I suppose the onions were left in our seats — either from guilt or teenage forgetfulness.
“Ricky and Gary have been chopping onions,” she told the group. “They will not play.”
Disappointed but realistic, this was no huge loss, I reckoned. I was just the A.T. and Gary was the sixth man. The crowd sat silent. Mrs. Owens stood defiantly before us, her arms folded.
Now the dream’s sequence shifts to the UT Vols basketball arena. In spite of our court absence over the chopped onion scandal, the Collierville Dragons won their quarterfinal and semifinal pairings. We were headed into the finals against South Side High School of Memphis.
Here, the dream tested historical accuracy. Our opponent in the finals was actually Trenton Peabody High School whose superstar was a 6-foot-9 center named Dave Lutter. South Side was in the same tournament, but they were in the Large Schools Division. They were eliminated in their first round.
Dreams just have minds of their own, I guess.
As we approached the championship game, Mrs. Owens softened. Shortly after the semifinal win — against Gatlinburg-Pitman, I think — she pulled Gary and me aside.
“It’s like this,” she told us. “We’re going up against South Side for the championship. We’re gonna need both of you on the court.”
We were reinstated. The chopped onion incident, if not forgotten, was apparently forgiven. We were free to suit up the next night.
Still miffed over Mrs. Owens’ reaction to the whole sordid onion affair, we reluctantly agreed to play. Truth is, we were elated. We just didn’t want to show it. We, and the rest of the team — including those who did not chop onions — were ready to take on South Side, a team that had soundly beaten us earlier in the regular season on our home court.
And here, I awoke.
Whether Gary and I made it off the bench, I cannot say. Whether we exacted our revenge against South Side in this dreamworld state tilt remains a mystery.
But for the sake of sports accuracy, history will record the Collierville Dragons won the state championship that Saturday night in the Small Schools Division by edging Trenton Peabody, and Dave, by a 64-61 tally in double overtime. Dave fouled out, as did our starting center, Rodney Shaw. Gary scored on a key layup late in the second OT to secure the win. Our superstar, a forward named Eddie Fields, scored 9 points. Dressed in my letterman jacket and bright white jeans, I remained on the bench, but with countless rolls of tape well within reach.
Dreams are funny. But as Dad always said, sometimes they’re just “crazy.”
Either way, Dad and Mom were proud of our state championship. I can’t say how they would have felt about the chopped onions.