I was in a gymnasium recently with a gaggle of very small boys, watching them shoot around wildly and giggledly before their basketball practice, when I saw a tiny-not-tiny moment that I find, weeks and weeks later, unforgettable. The coach blew his whistle—a sharp sound loaded with meaning and memory and shrill and sprint and sweat and sore. And the boys shambled to center court for what promised to be an inspirational speech from the coach, who looked pregnant with wisdom. But then I saw the tiny-not-tiny moment: a dad kneeling on the sideline retying his son’s shoelaces. The shoelaces were orange, the sneakers blue. The father bent over the laces like he was praying. Not looking at him, the son—who was perhaps 6 years old and 4 feet high—stared at his teammates. His hands on his father’s shoulders. Perhaps the father was saying something to his son I couldn’t hear. I became that father. I became that son. At once, I desperately wanted the boy to look down with tenderness and love and reverence. With all my heart, I wanted this, just for an instant—I wanted the boy to see his father, to get the dimmest sense of the mystery kneeling at his feet, making sure the laces were tight and double- or even triple-knotted, so there were no loose ends. It turns out you cannot tie up all the loose ends as a dad, but you sure can try. He finished one sneaker and went to work on the other and then the boy glanced down at his father. I was sitting a ways away so I couldn’t see the boy’s face clearly, and maybe he was impatient, or embarrassed, or muttering something low in his throat like Hurry up, Dad! But maybe not, you know? Maybe not at all. Maybe just for an instant, even though he was only 6 years old, even though he was in a hurry to get onto the court, even though his dad was taking a too-long time to tie his laces, maybe the son looked down and got a jolt of something I cannot find the right word for—something bigger than us, something the boy, if he is lucky, would someday feel, too.