The Only Player On The Field, Or, Saturday Morning at 6:42am


In something like 2 hours, if all goes according to plan, I will be standing on a soccer field in the East Bay watching my niece play soccer. She’s 7, almost 8.

Any of you who have ever been to a children’s soccer game with participants this age know what I am about to experience. Hive soccer. A swarm of players, running in the general vicinity of a ball, kicking it now and then. Very endearing.

My son played soccer, from about this age all the way through high school. You might think I’ve seen a lot of games. Not really. But I did see a lot of my son playing soccer.

I loved going to the games, despite my son’s request that I remain silent on the field, despite my inability to comply with that request. But I never really watched a game, per se. I watched my son. I kept my eyes on him, every moment he spent on the field. His numbers, I think, were 7 and 10. Maybe 11. But any failure to remember is from failing neurons rather than lack of attention. Nothing mattered but how my son played, how he felt in the playing.

And I could have cared less, in terms of my own satisfaction, about having a good soccer player for a child. He was good enough to start in high school, to be on the team. Not the star. I didn’t care. I wasn’t getting any parent thrills from all this, not the thrills I got from his early talking, his origami obsession, or the many other signs of his intelligence. I just loved to see him in action.

He was a skinny guy. I still remember how his bony shoulders looked in his maroon school uniform. The way he put his head down to run. The time it took him to get going, when he ran. His capacity to anticipate the ball. His general reluctance to throw his body at a play, just in case it might matter. I could see who he was, when he played, cerebral, focused, slightly hesitant, brain working. Every now and then, angered. And to a parent, that’s like sugar, to see one’s child in action.

His hair was often too long.

For big games my superstition was that if I never took my eyes off him he’d play well.  He was happy when he played well, and I have always felt that someone as considerate as he deserves happiness. It’s hard to keep your eyes on one kid, running up and down the field. He played center mid. They run, a lot, up and down.

I imagine that I will be able to let my niece leave my sight. That today I might actually watch a game. If she says no cheering, I’ll probably be able to comply. Aunts are good like that.

I remember, when my son’s high school team played for the league championship, my sister and brother-in-law and niece came to the game. The field was cut into an East Bay hillside, above a freeway. We were so high up that a hawk circled off the created cliff behind the chain link fence, across from our bleachers. I kept thinking, inappropriately, of Prometheus. Lucky the hawk was not interested in our livers.

My son’s team won. We have the school paper photo, still, of him jogging down the field as the game finished. Two other boys are in the picture but I really pay no attention to them. That’s what their mothers are for. All the boys shaved their coach’s head. Apparently he had promised. One doesn’t always understand what one sees, but one watches closely anyway.

My son turns 21 this week.  Happy birthday darling boy. Much love from Mom. You could forget a lot, you know, and I’d still remember. I do reserve my maternal right to remember incorrectly. After all, I wasn’t seeing the whole picture.

28 Comments

  • 04/23/11
    9:04 am

    Reply

    Lily Lemontree (AS) said...

    A milestone birthday! Sending your young man many happy birthday wishes!
    Have a very happy and blessed Easter my friend!

  • 04/23/11
    9:12 am

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    Tabitha said...

    I have a 25 year old niece whom I haven’t met, we’re not what you would call a close family. Have a lovely long weekend.

  • 04/23/11
    9:26 am

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    Julia said...

    I love the way you write about your children. I hope they do too, the love is right out there. Very happy birthday to your boy. 21 is a good start. 25 is better, and 29 is better still. Many good things ahead.

  • 04/23/11
    10:00 am

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    RoseAG said...

    Basketball was my favorite kid sport. The games were intense. Soccer was my runner-up. After that I liked swim meets. Last place went to baseball — the games were too slow and way too long for me.

    From the time the boys were little my husband was in the habit of taking them off to the mall for lunch and a haircut. Somehow that always seemed to involve a stop at Toys R’Us or later on Game Stop. Neither one of them ever had long hair and I’ve always thought it was because of the rewards associated with those outings.

  • 04/23/11
    10:20 am

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    Kalyn said...

    This post made me laugh! When I was little, I used to pick dandelions in the middle of soccer games. Needless to say…I went on to play other sports. Happy Birthday to your son! And have a blessed Easter!

  • 04/23/11
    10:38 am

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    Elizabeth said...

    This is so lovely! “… like sugar, to see one’s child in action.” So very very true. i will echo a previous comment and day you write so very lovingly about your children.

  • 04/23/11
    11:25 am

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    Susan said...

    What a wonderful post Lisa. Happy Birthday to your son.

    I still remember our younger son’s 21st birthday. It fell during spring break for his college (Oberlin). He flew to meet us in Santa Fe that day and we took him for a special birthday dinner at Pasqual’s. We were so honored that he would spend the day with us. We didn’t insist—just offered the invitation.

    I can also relate to your description of what you did while your son played soccer. Our sons played a lot of sports, but I remember most our older son playing baseball, then tennis. I LOVED baseball and he was a great player–my eyes were always trained on him as you describe. But, his love was tennis and I followed him all over the state of Texas as he played. I also loved to watch him in motion. I never cared if he won or lost–but wanted him to be happy. I think that’s what parents SHOULD care about when it comes to sports. Thank you for bringing back some very poignant memories. Our sons are 28 and 32 now.

  • 04/23/11
    11:34 am

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    the gardeners cottage said...

    hi lisa,

    what a lovely story and one i can well relate to. having 3 on the soccer field sometimes all at once, in different games, of course, i had to take my eyes off just to manuever the fields. no wonder i’m so exhausted now. my youngest turns 23 on monday and i hope he knows how much he is loved.

    xo
    janet

  • 04/23/11
    3:09 pm

    Reply

    Karena said...

    Happpy Birthday to your son!

    Lisa we share many of the same memories…those days of soccer! My son I adore.

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

  • 04/23/11
    3:24 pm

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    Susan Tiners said...

    I enjoyed reading this Lisa. It made me wish my kids would let me write about them :-).

  • 04/23/11
    3:56 pm

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    The Preppy Princess said...

    You paint wonderful pictures in the mind, I can almost see his “bony shoulders” under his jersey, your posts about your children are just so touching.

    Happy Birthday to him, and happy smiles to his Mother as well.
    tp

  • 04/23/11
    5:14 pm

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    her preppiness said...

    Happy Birthday to your son!!

  • 04/23/11
    6:32 pm

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    Austyn said...

    Love. My son is 13 weeks old. Oh so much to look forward to, for both of us.

  • 04/23/11
    6:45 pm

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    Town and Country Mom said...

    Happy Birthday to your son. My oldest turned 19 this week, and your recollection of watching your son is so true and perfect.

  • 04/23/11
    9:57 pm

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    Lori Dominguez said...

    Thank you Lisa – great post !! I enjoy the way you share your memories from raising your children. My boys both played soccer also, and they were usually the only white boys on the team. Have a great Easter weekend — I am just seeing the 28 year old son tomorrow. The other son we will see later on in May.
    Lori

  • 04/23/11
    11:33 pm

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    metscan said...

    A warm birthday greeting to you, the mother too!!
    I know the feeling you so well are describing. I have experienced it too at dressage competitions. I see no other riders or horses, I only see my own daughter and a our own horse on the field. Not much interest for the others.

  • 04/24/11
    3:48 am

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    James said...

    You have captured the experiance perfectly.

  • 04/24/11
    4:46 am

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    Laura said...

    Have a wonderful Easter Sunday.
    Once again, your magic with words had us on that field watching your son as well.

    I love that.

    Laura

  • 04/24/11
    5:21 pm

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    deja pseu said...

    Your writing is so vivd and evocative. Beautiful words, and beautiful sentiments.

  • 04/24/11
    6:19 pm

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    Colleen said...

    Happy birthday to your boy! And to you too, of course. I love how our children’s birthdays are a shared event – we were there, after all!
    Best,
    Colleen

  • 04/25/11
    5:21 am

    Reply

    linda said...

    Beautifully written! Happy birthday to your son!
    -linda,ny

  • 04/25/11
    5:51 am

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    Meg Flynn said...

    I love when you write about your kids, and what it was like for you when they were growing up, and your relationships with them over the years. I’m 25 years old and there’s a lot I don’t understand about my mother’s point of view, but reading your blogs makes me pause and gives me a little bit of insight before I throw up my hands and call her crazy.

  • 04/25/11
    7:59 am

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    Patsy said...

    Oh, Happy Birthday to your bony shouldered boy!

  • 04/25/11
    8:54 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Lily – Thank you very much.

    Tabitha – I hope you had a good weekend too. You’d be a very fun aunt. Sorry your niece doesn’t get that experience.

    Julia – Thank you. At the least, my kids know I love them. I still drive them crazy, I am sure, but I love them.

    RoseAG – My son liked his long hair look. It wasn’t the length that was the issue so much as it was the volume:).

    Kalyn – Aw. My daughter would gallop around as though she was a horse:).

    Elizabeth – Thank you very much.

  • 04/25/11
    8:54 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Susan – Thank you. How wonderful that your son invited you. And yay for him, playing tennis in Texas. That’s no small feat.

    Janet – I am sure your son knows. And I imagine you were a funny mother, even back then, even on the soccer fields.

    Karena – Thank you! They don’t know what it means, soccer moms:).

    Susan – Thank you. I try to respect my kids’ privacy while telling the story of my motherhood.

    TPP – Thank you. I would have told you all he’s handsome, but you know, one can’t go overboard:).

    Her Preppiness – Thank you!

  • 04/25/11
    8:54 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Austyn – Oh, so the fog may lift a bit now for you. So much, as you say, to look forward to.

    Town and Country – Thank you. Mothers united, right?:)

    Lori – Enjoy your time with your boy.

    Mette – I hadn’t thought of that, but of course the dressage would be similar.

    James – I thank you, sir.

    Laura – Thank you so much.

  • 04/25/11
    8:55 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Deja – :).

    Colleen – Yes, I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right of course.

    Linda – Thank you very much.

    Meg – I am so glad. We are a generation that ought to keep making motherhood more truly understood.

    Patsy – Thank you!

  • 04/28/11
    8:42 am

    Reply

    Stephanie said...

    I loved this post! Happy Birthday to your son!

One Trackback

  1. […] then my son’s time as center midfielder in high school. Vivid memories of that so smart teenager, watching the field, never making a […]

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