There was a buzz in my house for the first football game of the year at the high school. The weather was perfect, just a little crisp in the air. I found my maroon jacket to show my allegiance to the team. We pulled into the school parking lot just on time for the game, and boy, was that a mistake. The line to get into the game was probably 200 people deep. I had not seen a crowd like that for a game at the school in years. I get it though; we’ve all been stuck inside for way too long. A football game was a great excuse to get out of the house, and maybe see some faces you haven’t connected with it in a bit.
We ended up missing almost the entire first quarter, but we weren’t there for the football anyway. We love football in my house, but my wife and daughters really don’t even know what a first down is. See, we were there to see the halftime show. Our oldest daughter and her dance team were performing. If you have read anything of mine, you know, I’m a dance Dad. I attend sporting events to see my daughter and her dance team perform. My daughter is a senior this year and was named a captain just the day before her first game. Her being named captain was great, she deserved it, but selfishly for me it was great because I didn’t have to be her shoulder to cry on if she didn’t get it. We’ve all been there; your son or daughter doesn’t make a team or get a role in a show and you become that shoulder for them. So, when they do get the role they are trying for you just get to enjoy, you tell them you knew all along they would get it and you just thank whatever god you believe in for letting that happen and keeping your shoulder dry for another day.
This game was like many others before them. Maya, my 5-year-old goddaughter, and biggest dance team fan was there. Sitting on all the girl’s laps. She is absolutely in love with Meghan and her team, and they seem to all light up when they see her. She’s a bit of a celebrity at these games, talking to whoever will listen and assuming everyone knows her. I love watching her at these games. My parents, and my wife’s parents were all in attendance, along with, as I mentioned a million other people. A pretty normal event, one we had been to a ton of times before, just not for Meghan’s Mom and Dad.
My wife stays busy, gets involved in everything the kids do as a way to be around it, she takes over the role of team mom for cheerleading or a booster parent and treasurer for the dance team. But, for the games, she gets to just me Meghan’s mom. And she wants nothing more than to watch all the things the dance team does at the game. Her eyes probably only make it to the field for the halftime show. But, she can, we can, feel it this year. This feeling is fleeting. We both know it’s almost over and we both feel like it just started. I struggle like hell with this. I used to tell my mother-in-law to stop thinking about when her son would be leaving to go back to California and enjoy the time he is here. And now, I know, that is easier said than done.
I watch with pride as my little girl shows me again and again,she isn’t so little. She’s in love with being this age. She’s good at it. Like, she’s a super incredible human in my completely biased eyes. She’s complicated yet simple, she’s smart yet can’t turn on a grill, she’s exactly what I would have prayed for my 17-year-old daughter to be if I was a praying man. I think she knows already, but she was raised to be all those things, perfect in my again very very biased eyes because of her Mom. My wife might, and I do say might very cautiously, not be perfect, but she is a perfect Mom, and my girls are so damn lucky to have her.
Anyway, back to this perfect football game. I sit with my god daughter when her dance team friends go off to get ready to do the halftime show and I remember my little girl watching her uncle play football. She was Maya before Maya was Maya. She loved hanging out, watching everything but the football game, every move made by those cheerleaders and dance team. She dances in the aisle as her Nana balances between watching her son playing in his last games and the joy in her granddaughter’s eyes. Happy and sad all in the same moments. That’s love, that’s family, that’s all the good things wrapped in one little, tinymoment. A dumb football game to some, but the entire world to someone else.
Life has a way of showing its beauty in the strangest of ways. While I always thought my mother-in-law cried too much about the smallest of moments I know now, she was right. Her tears were all that joy and sorrow mixed together. I made fun of her for it, cracking jokes about her tears, until now, as I struggle to find the words through my tears to express what this feeling of seeing my little girl not so little anymore, I know she was right.
She’s going to hold this over my head for years and years to come, and you know what, she deserves this victory…