Ten weeks ago, my oldest daughter made clear she really and truly wanted to try boxing.
Heather Hardy, the 15-0 122 pounder who is Brooklyn-based, trains all levels of folks on the side, as she builds her resume to the place where professional boxing is her full time gig.
Heather added Annabelle, age 8, to her training schedule and Bella, after finishing up her Thursday in third grade, and a couple pages of homework, made it to Gleason's, the famed and fabled fight factory in the DUMBO neighborhood. And she took to it like a baby duck to water.
Her form was fine, more than fine, for a newbie, and she and Hardy got along quite well. Hardy would crack up periodically during sessions–we've done one a week–and marvel at how Bells connects her knuckles to the point of the center of her target.
“What eight year old does that,” Hardy chuckles.
And in the hour we are at Gleason's, me, and often Bella's sister Juliette, age 5, make the rounds and check in with the cross section of characters which populate the joint.
Eric Kelly has tabbed her “Up To No Good” Woods, which has stuck to the child, even at home, where it applies now and again, when she stays on her tablet too long or blows off bed time and pretends not to hear when I ask her to walk the dog.
Delen “Blimp” Parsley busts her chops good naturedly, in a way that exists in a place like this pretty much unlike any other place, because most everyone there has a common bond. They are there to better themselves and prove something to themselves and quiet doubters and more so self doubt.
More than a few people watch Bella (pictured left, with Hardy holding pad, right) and think Heather is training her daughter but nah, she was born in 2007 and none of us met her until 2012 or so.
Yesterday, Bella got a piggyback ride from trainer PJ, she excitedly told her mom when she got home, and asked Eric Kelly what happened to his eye.
I wasn't being smart, going to school, staying out of trouble…so listen to your pop, Eric, who is now a correspondent for this website, told her. She got it, didn't follow up with an even more intrusive query. She's grown up in Brooklyn and knows enough to know that acting up and out sometimes results in bad outcomes.
She finished up yesterday and we took a cab home.
Enroute, Hardy texted: “I love Annabelle Woods so much. She is such a sweet amazing kid Mikey. You guys hit the jackpot with that one. Both the girls are amazing. But I know Annabelle a little better. She makes me happy.”
I had the window open. Maybe a speck of pollen got in my eye, because I teared up. I shared the sentiments with Bella and she beamed. “I got two presents from Heather before my birthday next week (April 14),” she answered. “The t shirt from her next fight at Barclays Center (April 16) and that comment!”
Boxing is the sport for the rest of us, I like to say. The ones who didn't listen to pop and have an eye that bears testament to that stubbornness. The ones like Hardy born into a destabilized home life, who had adult role models fail her and render her prematurely a cynic. Annabelle fits in. Her mom lost her mom at age ten and that wound will maybe never heal without obvious scar tissue. Me, I don't so much as sip a beer to cap off a stressful day because it doesn't suit my constitution, OK? Her parents are works in progress, shall we say. So this time with Hardy, this hour a week at Gleason's, with that gang of mildly eccentric characters whose rougher edges go softer when they walk up those stairs and they find themselves in a place which makes them feel at home, despite the cacophonous rat a tat, and lingering reminders of sweat stains and the like, it's been priceless.
Annabelle has come to Gleason's to change her life. I didn't know it and she didn't know it less than three months ago, but I see it and feel it and know it now.