From One Generation to the Next
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At the risk of unleashing my inner sport geeky side, I want to reflect a little on why I love this time of year.
I start by sharing that I just returned from a doctor’s visit. The young nurse that was preparing to stick needles in me and start cutting a bit was waiting for the doctor to come in. She engaged me in polite conversation; and I replied in kind – polite conversation. She mentioned she was a big MSU fan, especially their basketball program. I asked her if she played basketball, and she replied: “I played volleyball, soccer, and….”
She didn’t finish the sentence.
Not because she lost track of her thought, but because when she mentioned soccer the conversation for me went from polite to passionate. It did for her, too. She was a left mid and I was a center mid. Her favorite player was Christiano Ronaldo; mine Lionel Messi. She lives in the city next to a huge soccer bar that shows all the Premiere League games. She doesn’t have a favorite PL team, but her brother is a huge Liverpool fan.
I mean, in ten minutes we learned more about each other’s history and attachments to the game than we had any right or reason to expect.
When I was six I started playing organized soccer.
I watched every game I could – hard to do growing up in America back then.
And every Saturday every fall, I would suit up. Putting on the uniform and lacing up the cleats was about as good a moment of repetitive anticipatory joy as I can recall growing up.
The day would start with Mom or Dad or both packing six boys into the car, memorizing which one of us played the 8:30 match at St. Blaise field, which one the 10am match at Aubuchon Park, which the noon game at St. Kevin’s, which the 1:00 at Tiemeyer, and who had the 5:00 game under the lights back at Blaise.
This happened every fall Saturday. It was heavenly. We’d go from game to game to game. It was hot dog lunches from a curb-side beverage stand; light misty rains and cool breezes; muddy cleats and bruised shins; and tales in the car about exploits we were proud of or costly mistakes we rued.
Holy cow, those were good times.
I am sixty years old and to this day, when a cloudy, misty fall Saturday hits I’m ten years old again nervously tying up my laces, sliding my shin guards into the long knee socks, and proudly putting the black and white jersey with the St.B on the chest.
The worst part of the entire day was the whistle that ended every game. I didn’t care of we won or lost – I just wanted the joy of playing to never end. It always did – and there was never a game win or lose when that last whistle didn’t disappoint me.
Last week, I played a game of two on two with my 37 and 36 year old son and my six year old grandson. My knees ached. My back and shoulder hurt. But lord, it felt so good. My older son and I lost to my younger son and my grandson – but the worst part is it ended.
Most of my sporting joys are memories now. The body won’t permit what it used to covet.
But it’s all good. I take vicarious pleasure in watching the next generations develop their own love for play. Childhood lingers in smells and sounds and clouds and cool breezes that trigger fond memories and which then get passed on to another generation. May it always be so on this, our journey Into the Mystic.