October 18, 2011

The Necklace

This is the necklace my daughter earned for being the MVP player on her soccer team.  She got to keep it for a week, and then had to hand it over, to be given to another girl at the next game.   Her team didn't win the week she earned the necklace, and she didn't make a goal.  In fact, her team has only won one game so far, and the season ends on November 5.

No matter.  At the risk of hyperbole and proud-parent gushing, I've been  awestruck with Lily, and this whole soccer thing.  At 9 1/2, she is somewhat "old" to be playing for the first time.  Here in our corner of suburbia, it feels like every other child from age 4 on up plays in the recreational soccer league.   I'm not the type to force my kids into any activity they don't show an interest in, and for years, when I'd ask if she wanted to play soccer, she'd shake her head and utter a vehement, "NO!"

That's my girl, I'd think. Just like her mom, a lazy, curled in the corner with a book and a head full of hazy images kind of girl. No running around in cleats for us, thank you.

And then, this summer, she said, "I think I want to play soccer."
"Um, like on a team?" I asked.
 "Yes!" she said, and then went on to describe all the fun she'd been having at recess, kicking the ball around with her friends.
"Okay then," I said, but in my head I thought....really? 

She started the season slowly, literally.  My husband and I would watch her at practice, at her early games, moving around on the field like she had ankle weights attached.  She didn't know the basic rules, needed positions explained over and over.   No matter.  The day of her first game, it was 103-degrees at 11 o'clock.  She was sweating hard, and flushed a blotchy red color that I'd never seen on her face before.  Except for exclaiming about the heat, she didn't complain.

She hasn't complained, once, about the practice schedule, the early mornings, the way the routine of it all has started to slowly dictate our lives.  (Me, on the other hand...)  

I didn't play sports as a child. I was overweight until sixth grade, when puberty and hormones kicked in, melting away what was evidently mostly "baby fat."  In junior high, my glasses broke in half when a volleyball smacked me in the face.  Yeah. That kid.

I get a bit of ribbing from my mother, who worked for most of my and my sister's childhoods, about being a stay-at-home-mom. For years, she referred to my local friends as merely "the mommy's." But until this fall, she hasn't been able to officially call me a soccer mom.

Now she gets to call me a soccer mom.  It's a loose strand, a clue to tug at, in the tangled, knotted ball of yarn that is our mother-daughter relationship, that when I told my her over the phone that Lily (and her brother, too) would be playing soccer this fall, my mother's first response was:

"YOU'RE GONNA BE A SOCCER MOM!!!! BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!   Better you than me, that's all I can say!"

To which I could only reply: "Yep," because what else can you say to that?

So. Lily is playing soccer. She's in fourth grade. So far, she's having the most amazing, happy, social time of her life being nine years old, in the fourth grade, and part of a soccer team.    Last week, her team won their first game. And at that game, Lily kicked in her first-ever goal, the first goal her team had scored in weeks and weeks.

I sat on the sidelines, under our new Easy-Up shelter, and felt something go bursting in my heart: That's my girl.  Running around in the heat, with cleats and shin-guards, and talking already of playing again in the spring.   Then coming home and curling up in a corner with a book, her head full of hazy images of getting that Hogwart's acceptance letter in a couple of years

That's my girl, the one who screamed in surprise and joy when she earned that game necklace, for hard work and "battling for the ball."    And me, I'm her soccer mom.

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