I’m not looking forward to Halloween this year. To be honest, this holiday has always had a bittersweet quality. Among other things, for those of us who reside here in the Northeast, there is the knowledge that once October 31st rolls around, there’s little hope that we’ll enjoy another day of Indian summer — we know that winter is, indeed, coming. In exchange for this bad news, we are given some of those gorgeous, clear, crisp days that make even the most cynical among us pause to take note — and there’s almost nothing like the sheer breathtaking beauty, those wonderful bursts of color that autumn brings. This year it’s been difficult to enjoy Mother Nature’s seasonal artwork. I’m reluctant to see October draw to a close for another reason, one that has nothing to do with the weather. This year, those last days of October mark the end of my daughter’s high school field hockey career.
As a result, I have found myself paying less attention to autumn’s visual display and more attention to what has long been for us, the sounds of the season — the echo of the clacking sticks, the shrill of the whistle, the clunking noise the ball makes when a goal is scored, even the buzzer that has, more often than not, heralded yet another defeat. I feel like I’m filing away the sensory observations associated not just with field hockey, but with my only child — its rhythms, its cadences are, in my mind, intertwined with her rhythms, her cadences — so that I can revisit them somewhere down the road. Unlike other memories that we, as mothers, can pull out of a box — macaroni art work, baby blankets, poorly, yet lovingly, crafted Christmas ornaments — the sound of these games won’t fit into a plastic bin or a cardboard carton. This is not the sort of thing that can be pulled from a shelf, touched, or even smelled when we want to be reminded of who our children once were. These memories — less tangible, perhaps, but no less important — have a far more ephemeral quality to them.
Will she continue to play this game that she has grown to love so very much? That remains to be seen. Even if she does, it won’t be the same — for either of us. She’s not the same kid who stood in the backfield that September day — a day that feels both like yesterday and like a million years ago. I remember how she was nervously twirling her stick, how she was “setting” her body, how she was attempting to put on her best “game face”. I not only sensed, I knew, that she was both proud of her place on the team and terrified to fail — her teammates, her coaches, her parents, herself. It’s hard to believe on that long ago afternoon — the one when she surreptitiously scanned the crowd, looking for me — that she was only thirteen years old.
My daughter has come a long way since then, in many areas.. Her evolution both as a player and as a person is obvious to anyone who has tracked her progress. Yes, she’s become a better player — she’s more adept at the 16-yard hit, more able to help the goalkeeper guard against the shot to the post. She has become, both on and off the playing field, a more confident person. She’s no longer that thirteen-year-old girl who was shaking in her cleats, looking for Mommy, awaiting her chance to get in on the action. She no longer shakes in her cleats (or her flats or her heels). She hardly ever looks for me anymore. She’s a poised young woman who has a bright future. She has decisions to make about college, about hockey, about other important things.
What she’s managed to achieve on the turf has come through hard work, determination, and perseverance. If she can apply those lessons to the rest of her life, she’s going to be just fine. As for me, maybe I’ll steal a ball so that I can take it out and roll it between my fingers when I need to be reminded that I got to play a large part in most of her life, but that I’ll have to sit on the sidelines for the rest of it. I, too, will be fine. I’ve grown accustomed to those hard, cold bleacher seats.