Sunday, September 19, 2010

the politics of the soccer field go like this: some people really really really care about winning, and other people feel that all that caring isn't as good for the kids as, say, learning sportsmanship and running around. we are in the second camp, and, trying against my own upbringing, i try not to emphasize the score or even ask other dads what it is. i did however ask one dad how the orange team was doing, and he interpreted it as a question about the score; this is how i knew that, when i saw my son score a goal, i also knew that that goal had tied the game. this was a big moment for me; i hadn't seen him score any goal yet, so this was the first one. across the field, in the younger child's match, that son also scored two, though there are a lot of butterfly-chasers in those games, and having goalies is something they don't do; it's a bit easier for any single-minded kid to break away.

the younger team is the one my wife is the coach of; she has helpers; she tells parents what to bring and what to dress their kids in; she decides who goes in and who sits out. it's admirable that she's taken all this on, and she does a good job; most of all, she encourages parents not to get too taken up in the score, or to worry most about a kid's natural evolution into a serious soccer player. the day was hot, and one game nearby had very maroon-looking shirts playing dark green shirts, as if it was a james-joyce league. i was happy that the older kid seemed to get a boost from his important goal; this was good news, and ensured his willingness to go play some more next week. one never knows, though, how these things will work out.

those victories behind us, i went roller skating with the older boy today, and that was a different kind of victory. it was his first time; his first pair of skates was very slippery and he fell several times right away. he got a pair that was a little less likely to fly out from under him, and more tentatively, made it around the rink a few times without falling. he got interested in the arcade games but mostly lost quarters. at one point though he got a fistful of tickets and skated over to the window that said "redemption" in fancy letters. you turn in fistful of tickets there, and get some tiny trinket, that somehow makes kids really happy because they feel like they've earned it. in fact he'd gotten what tickets he had, by luck, or because maybe somebody had given them to him; but, it doesn't matter. it allowed him to rest, so that later, he could make a couple more passes around the rink.

i was reminded of growing up in ice-skating country, where some kids were really fast, and would do eights around slower plodders like myself. i have never learned to skate backwards. i could however go around the rink and show him how it was done, so this alone was a kind of victory, to be there, show him a trick, be able to do it myself. i also won a prize, for some reason; i won the game where they roll a huge die and eliminate all the skaters until, in this case, i was the only one left. they gave me a free ice cream sandwich; i gave it to the boy. this also lifted his spirits; it was a fun time for him. skating in this town, and also in the ones nearby, seems to be family-run operations, where more than half of the skaters were probably related, and only a few truly came from the town. i judge this simply by how good they were, and by the fact that all the good ones seem to both know each other and betray their family relation, regularly. i could be wrong though.

the rink seems to be a world of its own, brightly painted, a faint smell of new chemicals on it, no windows; disco lights, music, spectators, 'redemption' sign off in the distance. kids fall; others help them up; teenage girls play out passionate dramas with each other over what some kid did or what someone said to someone else. one grandfather took his tiny young grandsons, or maybe great grandsons, around the rink; i myself skated hard and long enough that i will surely be sore in the morning.

it's supposed to be over ninety again this week, which is treacherous weather for late september, but not especially unusual for the area. we don't really have the hot muggy terrible stuff beat until sometime in october, and we have to prepare for this late blast of summer; you can get a fair sunburn, also, if you let the sun hit you at a certain angle, this time of year. fortunately though, we're beginning to maximize the goodweather; if it's going to be intolerable, all june, july and august, getting outside on a good weekend in september, is as good as you can do. it may be a little hot, but the air is fresh, and it's clear; it's time to get out in it. somewhere, i'm sure there's baseball on television, and i'm sure it's good too; and, i kind of need a rest, but it's kind of like i was telling someone about minnesota. if it's only nice for a short window, but it's real nice, you get out, in that window, and you stay out. the sunset lands smack on the highway and virtually blinds us east-west travelers as we go back through town, home; we're all tired, but hopefully in better shape to face the coming week. thanksgiving and christmas come on the horizon, and we begin to wonder where'we'll be. now that's a nice season here, unlike minnesota, where you're driven inside, i suppose; here, you can walk around and enjoy the place, as long as you ahve a jacket sometimes. there are allergies now, with grass gone to seed and various plants going to seed, but once that frost comes by, it gets calm, and when you go out for a walk, you see stars, even in the city.

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