It's football season, which for us - like so many families - means our schedule is packed now through October, and the vast majority of the dates blocked out have something to do with the gridiron. No need to guess where we'll be on Friday nights, either. We'll don our black and red to sit on metal seats where we'll stomp and clap and cheer ourselves hoarse. Well, I will. My sons will spend quit a bit of that time walking around with their respective herd of teenagers.
I've watched many of these boys play since their 7th grade year. I've watched them mature, as young men and as players. We've been the underdogs in these parts for a long time. The glory days are something I hear whisperings of but, having only lived here for 5 years, I wasn't around to witness. And while I acknowledge that the surrounding towns might not think much of us, our football team has heart. They have a spunk, a grit, that I admire.
If you talk to any of the players or go to many games, you'll hear the rumblings that the refs don't like us much. Calls seldom seem fair and the opposing teams often blatantly cheat and aren't called on it. (For reals - my son was bitten once on the field. I've seen kids kicked while down, after the play had stopped. It's not cool.)
But, from the relative comfort of the stands, I can also see that point when our boys give up. They come so close to victory and then you can see them decide the odds are stacked too much against them, and they stop giving it their all. Sure, some of them hang on until the bitter end, but enough of them check out that the crowd starts to check out, and the inevitable end comes.
And, in all of my bleacher wisdom, I know that until they decide they have a chance to win, they have no chance to win.
My oldest son only played football with this team for two years. A broken arm ended his second season and he opted to homeschool after that because he was eager to finish early and find his great adventure. Blake, number two son, couldn't play football because of his head injury. And, in truth, I think he doesn't mind so much. He only would have played because it was the thing to do, not because he loved the sport.
My number three son, though. That boy lives and breathes football and now that he's in 7th grade, his time has come. He graduates from Mighty Mites to being part of the football team. I watch him on the field with the other boys and I know they're beginning a journey together, just as his brother began a journey before him.
Last night, after the game was done, I listened as Number Three told me every bad or unfair call he'd seen. As I replied, I realized that I needed to heed my own words.
You see, the last time I was a football mom, I didn't feel as keenly how alone I was because my other two children were still young enough to always sit with me. Now they're off and gone with their friends and I can't hide from my solitude. For me, only part of my mind was on the game last night.
I have to admit that I spent most of it feeling very much isolated - from the moms whose sons stayed on the team to play all six years together; from the moms who are married; from the younger, single crowd; from the people who've lived here all their lives... you get the picture. I sat there, painfully aware of how alone I was and the weight of every terrible thing from the past week just kept getting heavier and heavier until I slunk home, drank two glasses of wine, and watched an episode of Outlander while wishing I'd get sucked back in time. Only--let's be real--I wouldn't end up in Sam Heughan's lap, no matter how much I wish I would.
But anyway, back to my reply. I told him, "Life never fights fair and there will be many times when it seems like the ref isn't calling the game like He should. But you keep fighting until it's over. As long as you're fighting, there's a chance you'll win. Stop fighting and your chances go to zero. If you want to be a football player, then wrap your head around it now - the refs will not call fair games, the other teams won't like you, and it will be hard. But you still gotta fight."
So enough moping. I am alone and it is not the end of the world. There is a lot of scary/awful stuff happening in my world right now, but it won't last forever. Because I choose to fight.
Today is my 40th birthday and the 3-month anniversary of moving into my new home. I still haven’t tired of the feel of my toes in between my sheets, of having a bed that is mine. And so, even though the coffee shop and a birthday latte beckon me, I lie here a bit longer, relishing the sheets on my skin. The kitten we rescued is nestled at the juncture of my neck and shoulder, purring. My Holly dog lies alongside me, her ears alert as she watches the parakeets chatter happily and flit about their new, expanded cage. My windows are flung open and an unseasonably cool breeze chills what little skin peeks out from the covers. Yes, even the coffee shop can wait on mornings like this.
If I emerged from a cocoon three months ago, a new and more beautiful creature than I had been before, this house has been the branch where I’ve basked in the sun, allowing my wings to dry while I figured out what to do with them.
We moved in with very little--the clothes on our backs, a smattering of dishes and furniture, and camping chairs for the living room. It’s a bit mind-boggling how quickly that changed, through the grace of God and the kindness of others. One old gentleman in particular is a good example of that kindness. For a month straight, things would mysteriously appear on our front porch. I’d see him at Bible study and ask if he new anything about it and he would blush, duck his head and smile.
Bit by bit, the empty spaces were filled until it was our home, comfortable and full of peace. It’s a peace others notice right away, often commenting as much when they cross the threshold.
The past three months have not been without their trials. There have been money woes, there always are, but we’ve met them with faith and the need is always met just in time.
My beloved 16 Hand Marketing has undergone so many changes that I sometimes wonder if it will survive and I know that if it does, it’ll be forever changed. But that’s okay, because maybe it’s already served its purpose. It reminded me I’m alive with dreams left to dream. They don’t all have to come true to make them worth having.
I have two family members who’ve received terrifying diagnoses this summer. One will be okay, one will not. The face of my family is changing and I’m grieving it. Most days, it feels like I’m inching my way along, trying to find my way through a dark and unfamiliar room.
There has been uncertainty in the past months - with my job, my horses, next steps… But there is hope. There is peace. And I am keenly aware that those two things were the cry of my heart leading up to my decision to leave my husband.
I am learning each day to let go of fears of failure, of being in trouble, of being too much, of being not enough. As I watch my children shift and grow in response to their changed environment, I’ve realized that I’m not the only one who has been unfettered, who is learning to navigate our new normal. Still, they are thriving in their new worlds and it does this mama’s heart good to see, even if I miss them now with their new social lives and space to spread out.
This week, we’ve been blessed with glorious weather. I’m telling myself it’s God’s birthday gift to me (I mean, seriously, how often does Missouri see jacket weather in early August?) I have spent my evenings on a football field, watching my youngest carve out a space for himself in a world his oldest brother once dominated and I treasure this moment.
Yes, there is ugliness swirling about my world. There is uncertainty. There are times when I feel my loneliness more keenly. But more than anything, life is good.
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.