In the tail end of the 1970s, when I was seven years old, I had quite inadvertently found myself the owner of a valuable prize from the sports world.
Both of my brothers were in the Boy Scouts, and both of my parents were scout leaders, so whatever the Boy Scouts were involved in, I tagged along as the unofficial little-sister Boy Scout. When local Boy Scout conventions for scouts and their families were held, naturally I was there too.
The conventions in Seattle were held in the Kingdome. Each Boy Scout den in the area had their own booth to run. These booths had games to win prizes, crafts to take home, and lots of fliers and coupons to take home and never read. I loved these events! After my parents saw to it that their booth was up and running, one of them would walk with me so that I could either craft or play games, while they talked with other den leaders.
There was one booth in particular that I approached and someone handed me a paper with some lines on top and a large rectangle in the middle. The lines were for my name, age, address, and phone number. The rectangle was for me to draw a picture of what I was thankful to God for. I had no idea why they wanted my personal information but I was eager to fill that rectangle in! What nobody knew at the time was that I am autistic and the need to tune the world out for a while, especially in a busy, noisy, and crowded building, was as important to me as daily food.
Happily, I sat down and drew. Drawing was how I recharged my energy at home and at school. Stories and events, both real and imagined, were sketched out on paper. I had boxes full of my drawings and stories at home. The noises and bustle around me faded away as I tuned into creating visual images of the things that brought me joy.
Recharged, I lay the pencil down, handed in my drawing, and went on my way to visit more booths. Later in the day, towards the end of the event, I was starting to get tired and overwhelmed so I asked if I could go back to the drawing booth, but all the booths were being taken down and I had to stay put. I was very cranky.
A few weeks later there was a phone call for me. The person who called was a grownup who said a bunch of stuff to me that I didn't know how to answer. Finally, he either asked to speak to my parents or I just bewilderedly handed the phone to my mom. Then my brothers and I stood and watched on as my mom talked to this mysterious stranger who spoke to seven-year-old-nobody me!
I was scared that I was possibly in trouble. Why did that man know who I was and call me like I was a grownup equal to himself? What did I do to gain his attention? What if I had accidentally said something wrong on the phone to him and now he was tattling to my mom?
After she hung up, she smiled and excitedly told us something that sounded something to me like, "Julie... (then she said a whole bunch of words I didn't know the meaning of yet) ...Jim Zorn!"
My brothers got very excited indeed!
I had no idea what was going on and started to get anxious. I had no idea what a Jim Zorn was. This could either be really good or really bad!
My mom explained to me that when I drew that picture at the Kingdome, that I had actually entered a drawing contest, and I won a prize; the prize being an autographed football by Jim Zorn, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks!
Really? I won a prize for just recharging my energy by drawing a picture? I knew nothing about football or the significance of famous people writing their name on stuff, but I knew by my brothers' jealous behavior, I had struck gold!
The next day my mom and I set out to the house where the the winners of the drawing contest went to collect their prizes. There were three Nerf footballs with Jim Zorn's autograph scrawled on one end of each. One of them was yellow. Having never seen a yellow football before I chose that one.
So, now I had won a prize in a contest I didn't know that I had entered, and now had a toy that my brothers were envious of, but I wasn't allowed to play with it because it might ruin the scribble from some guy with a funny name. I wasn't allowed to scribble on my toys but winning a toy with a famous person's scribble on it was a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Okay, got it.
Yes, the win was very confusing for me at the time. At the same time, I was happy to have done something that everyone treated as important and was sure that I would figure out the significance of it all someday. I kept my yellow football in a special place, away from my common toys, among my breakables that were for looking at only.
Well over 40 years later I still have that yellow football with the scribble at one end. I am still not much into sports, and still need a quiet place to recharge to get through the day, but I am very proud to have earned a prize just for taking part as an unofficial little-sister Boy Scout!