In second grade little league, my team was the Chicago White Sox. It was the final year before the kids started pitching, and the dads — wearing giant versions of our uniforms — would stand about 40 feet from the plate and lob extra-soft baseballs into the strike zone. By the end of the spring, I was seven years old and batting .703. I remember that, because my little league coach had diligently scored every single play of every single game we played. After our last game, he brought out two boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts and gave everyone on the team trophies, each etched with a superlative, either statistical (like an impressive batting average) or subjective (a time someone made a diving catch in right field).
Similar to most mindlessly privileged suburban kids who came of age in early-2000s America, there was a shelf in my childhood bedroom that glinted gold, silver and bronze, with treasures from little league, summer basketball camps, fun runs, literature bowls and science fairs. On a cork board alongside it, I used to hang yellow-tasseled blue ribbons, red-and-white striped medals and pearl-embossed Certificates of Achievement. There was no conscious decision to create a shrine to myself — and I didn’t take care of it too well, it was dusty as hell — but the recognitions kept coming in, so I kept finding places for them. When I went on playdates to my friends’ homes, I would see identical arrangements, sometimes displayed in more public settings, like the living room or basement.