By Ethan Johnson
I enter the loft. Nobody has been up here in a while and it shows. There’s dust everywhere, a layer coating the room like a first snowfall. I know exactly where I’m going. Reaching the third box of stuff on the right, I open it up and start to root around inside. Finally, I find what I’m looking for. They are underneath my old Super Nintendo and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures. I set the shoe box down in front of me and I take a seat on the floor.
Opening up the lid, I pull out a handful of basketball cards. I recognize all the names and faces. Paul Pierce, Shawn Marion, Reggie Miller, Shawn Kemp, Steve Nash, Latrell Spreewell, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Rasheed Wallace, Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrew Bogut, and Gary Payton. As I rummage through the rest of the box, I find my “money pile,” the cards that are actually worth something. I flip through them: a Magic Johnson rookie card, Charles Barkley, Julius Erving (Dr. J), George Gervin, and an Allen Iverson rookie card. Last time I checked these cards totaled about eight dollars in value. A “money pile” indeed.
I don’t keep the cards hidden because they’re worth money, though. They mean a lot more than that to me. I can recall almost exactly when, where, and how I got each one. After begging my dad to buy me the four-dollar “Classics” pack, I found a Magic Johnson rookie card. I remember tearing into it, and shrieking with joy as I saw Magic staring back at me.
“We’re rich now!” I said, reassuring my father that his investment was a wise one. Upon returning home I found the card to be worth $2.50. The same as is it is now. At least it’s retaining value.
The Allen Iverson rookie card—I traded a friend for that. As a kid, I loved Iverson’s game and everything about him. He was smaller than almost any other player, and I was smaller than most of my teammates. I ended trading five cards for the one Iverson rookie. It’s still worth it.
I continue to look around in the shoe box. There must be at least two hundred cards in the box. Each one of them means something to me. Whether it’s a simple emotion that a player stirs up in me, a story about the card, or even about an event when the card was present. I was holding Shawn Kemp when the paramedics showed up at recess in fifth grade to take away the boy having a seizure. I was looking at Latrell Spreewell when my parents told me that my great-grandmother died. I was clutching Magic Johnson as I entered middle school.
In high school I was no longer carrying the cards around with me. I remember going up to the loft a few times though to look at my collection, and just wasting a Saturday flipping through every one, feeling the bent corners and torn sides. From Wayman Tisdale’s crease down the middle that was there when I opened the pack, to the puncture wound above Dennis Rodman’s head from our overly excitable dog.
While these cards may be just pictures on cardboard squares, they mean more than that to me. They are memories and little reminders of who I am and what I’ve done.
I don’t keep them hidden because I’m ashamed of them. I keep them hidden because it becomes an adventure just to dust off the box and try to find my old memories and myself.