Surfside was such an unpredictable team to compete with. Maxwell had to be prepared for anything. They trained hard all week long, not daring to miss a practice. When Saturday morning finally arrived, sober Maxwell athletes climbed onto the school bus, hoping they were ready for the challenge.
Andy and Maria, however, were not on the school bus with the rest of the kids. Coach Peggy had given them permission to drive to Surfside separately.
Maria sat idling at the curb of Andy’s house while he searched for his sunglasses.
“Where are my dang glasses! I know I left ’em in here.” He peered under the seat as he griped. “I always leave ’em in your car. You’re the only person I ever ride with.” He glanced back up and took a longer look at the glasses on Maria’s face. “Hey, those are mine. Give ’em back!” He reached for the glasses on her face.
“No,” she laughed. “These are mine!” Maria bobbed her head side to side trying to avoid his grasping hands, giggling. “You can’t have ’em these are mine!”
He kept grabbing for them. Finally he got them and put them on. “You’re right. These are too small.” He tossed them back, frustrated. “Where are mine then?”
“I always put ’em in the glove compartment. Did you look there?” She leaned over, opened the glove box and rummaged around in the papers inside. “See. Here they are… right here.” She flipped them backwards onto his lap.
“Oh…” He put them on and leaned back in his seat and tried to relax. “We can go now Care Bears, I’m ready.” He waved his hand forward.
Maria sighed at his bossiness but edged out into the morning traffic anyway. She’d bought those glasses for him a long time ago. They matched her pair exactly. The size was the only difference. Anything that Maria gave him was very important to him. They had known each other a long time and had exchanged many gifts. The gold chain around his neck, his wallet, a belt buckle in the shape of his name, as well as the sunglasses, were all gifts from her, little treasures of her affection for him. His most recent treasure was the new watch that she had given him on October 20, his 18th Birthday. He aimed to keep all her treasures forever.
Maria also had her own treasures. One of the two chains she wore was a little gold cross from her parents. The other gold chain bearing three pearls, had been a birthday present last July 15 from Andy. She also had a matching pearl ring that he had given her the year before and a charm bracelet that he gave her over the summer. She liked pearls best, and Andy thought that they suited her personality better than any other kind of gem. She was a secret treasure to him, just like a pearl.
Staring out the window while Maria drove, Andy remembered when he was in eighth grade and she was in ninth. She had become very sick and was hospitalized. Many people thought she would die. Andy knew first hand everything that the family had gone through during her illness. Maria’s church had held many prayer meetings on her behalf as well. Andy had gone to all of them and had sat with her family. He had visited the hospital every single day, hoping with all his heart for her recovery.
Sometimes Connor would come along with Daisy Ray. Daisy was just a sixth grader then, only 11 years old. She pretty much went everywhere with Connor. He was always being assigned the task of watching her, either by her family or his. It didn’t really matter who did the assigning, everybody was his boss back then.
Daisy, Connor, Mark and Andy all witnessed Maria’s serious illness together. She was often too weak to even get out of bed, but she always had a prayer and a friendly word for whomever she came in contact with. Andy watched her with curious eyes as she prayed for others in the hospital to get well. She rarely talked about her own condition. She preferred to talk about the things she had been reading that day or about the people that had come by her bed for prayer. The selfless concern she had for others stirred Andy’s heart deeply. Even though he was just 13, almost 14 at that time, he knew a cool girl when he saw one, and as much as a 13 year old boy was able to, he loved her.
Andy and the others knew that Maria had a special interest in astronomy, but because of her illness she could not go outside to see the night sky. So her friends brought the stars to her. Anything they came across that was about the moon, planets, stars or outer space they would bring to her hospital room. They would gather around her bed together and look at it, then tape it on the wall. Maria liked the articles and photos very much. The bonds of love grew tight among these children during this time, and they continued to grow tighter with every year that they grew up.
The hospital staff knew Connor and Daisy very well because Connor’s mother, Debbie, was diagnosed with cancer around the same time that Maria was. They were hospitalized on the same floor. Visiting the hospital was just a regular part of the week for these kids. Connor, Daisy, Andy and Mark visited both Debbie and Maria as often as possible. But Connor’s mother died that year. This left Connor with just his father and his little neighbor, side-kick friend, Daisy.
Maria did not die, to everyone’s surprise. She made an amazing recovery. Eventually, Maria was able to go back to school. She was tested and did great in math and science. She was a technical minded girl, anything to do with numbers or science she was great at, but she failed English miserably. Daisy was the dreamer in the bunch, not Maria. Maria could not write a poem, essay or story to save her life. The school would not pass her on to the next grade. So when Mark, Andy and Connor moved up to ninth grade, Maria remained in ninth grade with them, and Baby Daisy moved up to seventh grade.
From that point on, Andy considered Maria a priceless pearl. He went everywhere with her. He tended to her every need. If she did not go, he had no interest in going either. His faith in God grew a great deal through that time due to Maria’s family, and he always attended church with them after that.
Ninth grade was really the year that Andy, Mark, Connor, Maria and Baby Daisy started running seriously. Maria was no longer sick, but she was weak from a long span of lying in bed. Her family suggested that she exercise more to build up her strength. So that’s what they did. They started jogging together. They started really liking it, becoming very good at it. School competitions became the high point of their lives. It was great. Now, as Seniors, Maria was the fastest girl, and Andy was the fastest boy in the entire Florida region. They loved it. They loved speed. They loved competition. They loved God, and they really liked each other a lot.
A Teen’s Highest Height
A little of this.
A little of that.
Throw it up in the air, let it fall, ker-plat!
Then you might have an idea, of where a teenager is at.
Influences from the left.
Opinions from the right.
It’s the kind of stuff that keeps one up at night.
We all go through it.
There’s no way around it.
Your decisions form it.
Your choices build it.
You can’t afford to skip it.
What a teenager does, with “a this” or “a that”,
Determines his own personal ker-plat!
You might want to complain.
You might want to blame.
About “the this’s’” or “the that’s”,
But really it’s our choices, our decisions about them….
That’s what “AIMS” our ker-plats.
So dear teen, please pay attention.
Choose well your direction.
Lean not to the left or the right.
No matter what the fight.
Don’t take flight.
Go straight through with all your might.
Reach your potential, reach your highest height!