Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Football Family

It was enough. Just smelling the wet, muddy fields at Jade Park in Anchorage sent my memories askew; way, way back to another field in another place.

Bear has been playing soccer on a U-6 team this summer, and I have been accompanying him in more ways than one.

A tomboy is the truest sense of the word, soccer for me was more than a game that rose in popularity during my 1970's childhood. It was Life. Growing up in a neighborhood full of boys, joining the local soccer club and donning my Adidas cleats, shin guards (those sock-sort of things that really didn't protect anything but looked really cool), and reversible purple-yellow jersey was probably the most exciting moment of my childhood. Ask my mother. Our team was the Pebbles, a group of girls who stayed together until we entered Middle School, when some of us drifted off into the Select (Comp) world. The Pebbles' team name would change, too, morphing into the Bionic Babes (Oy, hated that) then the Issy (Issaquah) Kicks.

The best day ever was Saturday, when I got out of bed, put on my soccer clothes and watched Saturday Morning Cartoons, waiting until it was time to leave for the field. Mecca to me was 60 Acres, a huge swath of former slough transformed into acres and acres of soccer fields, white goalposts standing bare until nets were put up each week. When it rained, and it rained often, the ball would get stuck in the mud and we would kick and slide and laugh and revel in our dirtiness. We played full-field back then. Pop-up goals hadn't been invented and even if they had we would have laughed at them. We were playing soccer, for crying out loud. Goals needed to be big, and scary, and full of chaos.

Halftime was simple. We were happy to drink icy water from Dixie cups and suck on orange slices while our coach told us what we ought to be doing. No juice boxes, no string cheese or fruit snacks. We got little and liked it. If we were lucky at the end of the season, usually sometime around November, we got a party at Pizza and Pipes in Bellevue and free soda. Trophies? Medals? Forget it. Not even the championship team got that.

I stood around in an absolute downpour last night watching my son dance his way around the tiny field, neither knowing or caring what he was supposed to be doing. I smelled the rotting stink of decomposing grass and felt drops of rain collecting down my collar and thought that if I closed my eyes for just a minute I'd be back in 1976, squishing mud between my own cleats and chasing down the Number 4 soccer ball, avoiding the Blue Angel defender who somehow always managed to pull my stringy hair out of sight of the Referee. I'd taste the tang of both the orange quarter and the autumn air as I shivered in anticipation of the Official's whistle to signal the start of the second half.

It is soccer, it is football, and it is a part of me again. I've missed it, but I don't know if it will ever be like it was then; sweet, sour, and bitter, all three.
But good.

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