Excerpt: Kerry Close
Spring Lake, New Jersey
The first thing you notice when talking with Kerry Close is her intensity of presence. Hidden within her reserve, her native shyness, is a keen awareness, a sharp, sensitive intelligence. She’s twelve years old, but she seems far older. There’s little that’s childish about her. She’s watching what’s going on around her, her antennas are attuned, and she’s taking it all in. She seems to miss nothing.
On the other hand, this sensitive awareness is accompanied by a fierce competitive spirit. As little as she’ll talk about herself—and talking about herself is one of her least favorite activities—she’ll address this subject. When I asked what she likes about spelling, she answered, “I like the competition, I’m kind of a—” She stopped herself, then finished, “I like the competition.” In the middle of that sentence, she almost said, “I’m kind of a competitive person,” but that would have been too much self-disclosure. But it is certainly true. As her mother says, “Is she competitive? Very.”
Her competitiveness emerges on the soccer field and the basketball court; she’s on her school team in both sports. Although tall for her age, last year she failed to make the basketball team, which deeply disappointed her. Now in the seventh grade, she has not just made the team but become a hard-charging player. Not that she’s particularly adept at the sport, as she freely admits. “I’m not really good at ball handing,” she says, with a little laugh. However, “I score a lot of points, and whenever I’m open I usually take a shot.” That’s not a brag—Kerry doesn’t brag—just a simple statement of fact. She’s been known to score more than ten points in a game.
Her competitiveness also comes out every summer when she enters sailing contests. Living right on the Atlantic coast, in Spring Lake, New Jersey, makes boating a natural choice. She started learning how to sail at age eight, when a nearby harbor offered lessons for $50 for the entire summer. She walked down to the harbor five days a week, and despite having parents who are devoted landlubbers, she became a skilled sailor. Her long blonde hair blowing in the wind, she mans an Optimist, a one-person sailboat about seven 7 long, designed for sailors weighing from 50 to 120 pounds.