Friday, October 06, 2006

Soccer

It would be easy at this point to say - and then nothing much happened. Two years, and I've been trying to think of the best way to sum it up. I could talk about the burst of the dot com bubble, and track the time by the number of lay-offs Kirk survived at his company. I could tell more mountain bike stories, riding 20 miles or more down the coast with Kirk shouting 'fall left!' over his shoulder as we rode along the steep cliffs.

But the thing that comes to my mind is soccer, yes cliche and all.

Kirk was not a man of casual interests. If he liked something, if he wanted to do it, it became a passion. In our marriage this had included photography, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, archery and now soccer. Blame children 2 and 3 - it's all their fault.

Soccer hadn't been a big deal in Alaska. I think there is an AYSO up there somewhere, but with only one season suitable for outdoor games, and that taken up utterly with the aforementioned camping, hiking fishing etc, it never even crossed our lives. Virginia was entirely devoted to mountain biking with hardly time for the odd trip into DC. If I thought about soccer at all I think I would have announced that I couldn't be a soccer mom, I didn't have a minivan.

But for some reason one day as we drove up Highway 1 we both noticed a small sign announcing sign ups for 'Little Kickers' (which gave me a vague impression of small but potent drinks for some reason) and Kirk decided to look into it. Maybe it was part of trying to do the standard civilian thing? At any rate at the end of the day children 2 and 3 had 'uniform' t-shirts in green and yellow and were assigned to their new teams.

Of course it couldn't stay that simple. In the fall all three kids were on teams, the male child sporting green hair to match its jersey (and to help its parents pick it out among the identical small boys on the field). The next season the male was on two teams (and did, for a weekend, have half its head green, half red) just to make things more interesting. Finally all three kids and Kirk took ref classes and became certified (and all four of them had stripey ref jerseys as well), children 2 and 3 were playing on teams, and Kirk was coaching. Me, I learned what offside meant, could throw around phrases like 'give and go' and 'off side trap,' and was reasonably confident about what position went where. I also pointed out to my manic family that anyone volunteering to take a five hour class starting at 8 am on a Saturday for the simple joy of standing in a herd of small children wearing cleats and kicking like maniacs was... well I love my family and I was in a strong minority so we'll say was dedicated beyond my own capacity.

The boy demonstrated he was his father's child by never going a game without at least one major catastrophe. At one point, having been seriously whalloped in the face by the ball, he announced defiantly if stuffily to the ref that, 'I don't need my face to play soccer!' In another game his coach asked him to stop throwing his body in the path of the charging opposite team: 'but it's my strategy!' But our visiting friend's favorite moment was when the boy, on the far side of one field, crashed violently to the ground (under several other people) and from far, far away came the clear tones of his loving sister: 'Man up, [Child]!'

We drilled and played together as a family, we watched English Premier League (Child 3 and Kirk were Arsenal fans in particular - Thierry Henri was a favorite) and European soccer (Real Madrid of course), and the pungent, musty smell of shin guards became a constant in the car.

Kirk loved it. In particular he loved coaching, and the boys loved him.

And those people, the soccer families, became wonderful friends. Amazing people - generous, loving, and unquestioningly supportive. I have good reason to know. In the military there's always a community waiting for you wherever you go. Geography changes, but the culture is the same. In California, it was all those people we stood on the sidelines and shouted with, people who were willing to be known as J's mom, and R's dad, people who like us cheered as our kids hurdled gopher holes and sploshed through mud puddles every Saturday, cheered whether we won (sometimes) or lost (frequently).

And we still miss them. So to all of you guys, we're trying to get back out there, we hope to see you soon, and we think about you all the time.

2 comments:

child 2 said...

We've gotten better, and i don't have to tell him to man up NEARLY as much now!

Child 1 said...

WE WON 2 GAMES! only we were camping so i missed it. oh the irony!