It may come as a surprise to some, but there is always much more to see than just the game. Last week I glimpsed into my future while covering a girls’ soccer match and it moved me to tears.
It was cold, one of those spring afternoons when winter decides to hold on for a little too long. From my warm seat in the press box I watched as a lady of a certain age, we’ll say 40-ish, worked her way down the stands and settled into the second row.
She was weighed down with bags, blankets, coats, and a padded stadium seat. She had been here before and I was fascinated by her proficiency. She pulled on a second sweater, tugged on a pair of gloves, wrapped her heavy scarf around her neck, and then slipped into a jacket that looked twice her size. She then retrieved a pair of earmuffs and a toboggan from her bag, wrapped a blanket around her and turned towards the field.
A moment later a ponytailed girl ran towards the sideline and made eye contact. Mom threw up her hand, the girl smiled and the game was on. In that moment, I was suddenly aware that the winter of one’s life is the spring of another’s.
I could easily imagine how long they had been performing this little ritual. How many practices had she sat through while reading a book? I wondered to myself how many people would even know her real name. Most would probably just point and say, “That’s Lindsey’s mom, she’s No. 7.” After all, that is a parent’s true identity.
It is an important job being a fan and it is one that we take very seriously as parents. We sit in the stands wearing shirts that proclaim us the proud parents of No. 52 or 77 or whatever number they’ve been given for that year. Our children expect us to be there, demand that we be there, need us to be there and in the end we want to be there … but it won’t last. Sometimes seasons seem to last forever but they always change suddenly.
In a few months No. 7, who is a senior, will don a different outfit as she walks across the stage and accepts her diploma. I have no doubt that mom will be in the stands for that as well. That’s where the fans sit after all.
Little Lindsey will pause long enough to accept the sheep-skin, smile for the camera, and cast one last longing look out across the crowd. She will be looking for that warm familiar face that has sat front row for every major event in her life, who has seen every game, cheered every goal and kissed every ouch.
There is always more to see than just the game and on that cold March afternoon, I could see the bond between a parent and child. I could feel the pain of the changing seasons and the worry of the unknown, as both were aware that time was moving on and that time changes everything.
Sometimes we allow ourselves to believe that the season’s will never change but they always do and eventually there are no more practices, no more games, no more searching the stands to see if you’ve made it.
The truth is that nothing last forever, not even childhood but maybe, just maybe, these memories that you’ve shared together will last a lifetime.