Do you remember when you were a kid, the first time you were told to “grow up” and it sounded like the person saying it actually meant it?
I do, the memory comes back every now and then. It has no set schedule like the coming and goings of the tides or seems to have any rhyme or reason for popping itself back into my head. One minute, I’m sitting there all calm, cool and collected and the next thing you know, I’m flashing back way too many years and recalling an event that on the face of it, seems so insignificant and trivial that it amazes me that it still resides inside my brain. I’m sure, that as the years have gone by, I’ve forgotten many much more important things that helped carve me into what I am. I guess that’s just one of the many strange things that makes life what it is.
I was probably about eleven years old or so and a fresh carpet of snow had fallen and turned the cement from the dull gray it was into a bright white carpet that didn’t seem to make any noise whatsoever when you walked on it. Since I was practically raised as an only child, there were no other siblings around and I had to pretty much fend for myself when it came to entertainment.
As kid, I loved football. I loved the thought of scoring the winning touchdown or making the game saving tackle. My hero’s at the time had names like Joe Namath and Dick Butkus. I’d watch my beloved New York Giants with a passion that bordered on obsession and could name just about every player, their position and their stats with the drop of a dime. Every Sunday, it was a ritual for me and my dad to go to the bar and watch maybe half of the game and come home to a Sunday dinner that my mom had prepared. Sometimes, even though the Giants sucked and were expected to lose, my father would take the loss exceptionally hard. Maybe he had money on the game or something but if he did, he never told me about it and I never found out. I think it was more his love for the team that disgusted him when they played like shit. I mean Christ, my mom would cook a huge Sunday dinner and the house would be smelling all good and stuff and if the Giants lost a heartbreaker, he’d say he was sick to his stomach and couldn’t eat.
In retrospect, as the years went by, the heartbreakers seem to come more and more with an alarming frequency. It got to the point where I started to dread these times but since I was a loyal soldier and still not quite so jaded, I felt it was my job to put the positive spin on things. I wasn’t aware of it at the time though, I thought it was just something that kids did. You know, the old “Things will be better next week, you’ll see” kinda stuff.
Anyway, about six inches of snow had fallen and I was out in my backyard, football in hand and playing this imaginary game. I’d throw the ball to myself, make this great diving catch and acknowledge the cheers that existed only in my head. I’d run and dart and weave my way through a stream of would be tacklers and leave them in my wake. I’d dive for an imaginary goal line that nobody else could see and score that winning touchdown just as the clock ran out. When I was out there, I was my own hero, if only for a little while and if only to myself.
I don’t know how long I was doing it. Maybe a half hour or and hour or so when my back window popped open. My dad stuck his head out and said something to the effect of…
“Cut it out, you look like some kinda idiot” and shut the window behind him.
Well, if there was anything that could let the air out my tires or take the wind out of my sails any faster than that, I don’t know of it. I tucked my ball under my arms and headed back to the house. To say I was dejected couldn’t begin to tell the whole story.
We still watched football together but it was never quite the same. Oh, we’d rejoice in victory and shed tears in defeat but something along the way had changed. Maybe it was the way we looked at each other. See, we didn’t talk much outside of the world of sports and they seemed to be the one thing that we were able to share without getting on each others nerves.
Maybe I grew up just a little bit too much that day.
But then again, maybe not enough. After all, I still got a bit of kid that lives inside me that still shines every now and then.
He says with a smile…