We were walking down the lane way to the school, it was wet and miserable and she was wearing shorts.
Daddy: "Aren't you cold?"
Isobel: "Nope. Are you?"
Daddy: "Yeah, I am. It's because it's damp and I always get cold in weather like this."
Isobel: "And because you're old."
Daddy: "Yep, that too."
Isobel: "I'm not cold at all."
Daddy: "Well, you're much tougher than I am."
Isobel: "How am I tough?"
Daddy: "You closed your fingers in my car door and you opened the door and took your hand out, then you closed the car door. You did all of that and THEN you started crying. That's pretty tough if you ask me.
Isobel: "That's not tough, that's just the smart thing to do."
I wasn't particularly good at sports as a kid. Shocking, right? I played hockey and though I enjoyed it a great deal, my skills left a god deal to be desired. I was a leg breaker-in the eight to thirteen year old sense. I was fat and not particularly fast but I was solid. If there were a particularly troublesome player on the opposite team, it was my duty to take him out. I became adept at tripping, low elbowing and flattening against the boards and spent a gigantic amount of time in the penalty box for it. I could have played for the Flyers in their heyday.
I think then, that when Isobel wanted to sign up for soccer, I just assumed that she would be more interested in running around around, maybe picking some dandelions and spinning. Endlessly spinning around the soccer pitch. Anything but actually playing. To my surprise, I couldn't have been more wrong. She jumped right into the thick of things and mixed it up with the best of them.
Now I don't think Real Madrid is going to come calling anytime soon she had a light in her eyes that I don't think I ever saw before. A light you can't get from barking at the minions. It's the light that comes from the thrill of playing on a team and pitting yourself against your peers. The light of competition.
I have to interject a couple of things here; firstly under eight soccer is not so much about the skills and positions of the game so much as it is about running back and forth ad nauseum. (which is kind of the game anyway, right?) It's like something from an our gang movie, a lone ball rolls down field followed by a gaggle of screaming, thronging arms and legs all trying to capture it with little or no discernible ability to do so.
Secondly, after only two regulation games and not a single practice I might add, that if the object of the game was to hurtle down the field and then kick the ball at a perfect right angle away from the goal, my daughter would be champion of the world. She can face the goal head on and boot the ball but it always ends up near the feet of the opposing team's coach. Remarkable really.
It was the same with The Boy for the most part. He was bored and probably better than most on his team. He was certainly faster than most on his team,though you wouldn't know it because they kept sticking him in goal. Not a position to put a wiry kid with ADD. Goal is a position for fat kids with decent reflexes. Did I mention I played goal quite a bit? The Boy, to his credit stuck it out much longer than I thought he would. I think he kept hanging on thinking if he could just go one more year, it would get better but they didn't separate his teams by skill level as they did as much as they did age. He was stuck playing goal on a team rife with flower pickers and cloud busters.Good on him for making it as long as he did.
This year they seem to be more concerned with the teams being more evenly stacked so, though there are a couple of ringers on some of the teams (Izzy's included as far as I'm concerned) every body is at about the same level. It's nice to see fewer break-aways from the 'really' good kids and more of everyone laughing and chasing an unbelievably elusive ball. I think the best part of all of this is the absolute break in the chain of thought between running with the ball and shooting the ball. All of the kids, mine included, will run full tilt with the ball and then come to a full stop, position themselves just so and have a good hoof at the ball. Mostly to little effect. This alone is worth the price of the uniform.
But I'm wandering away from the tour...On this particular occasion Izzy was raring to go as soon as we got there.There was no childish hand holding, I would have to sit by myself as she ran off to be with her team. She practiced a little bit and did some routine stretches and then it was go time. Naturally she sat by the sidelines, completely uninterested in the goings on of her team.
"Isobel," her coached shouted. "You're on."
She dashed to her position and as the whistle blew, she made a bee line for the ball. Unfortunately, so did every other child on the field. Some of whom were not playing soccer on this field. She touched the ball at one point with her foot, which is about as close as I figured she was going to get to any real action. Some time during the second half hour of this back and forth and back and forth and nobody really touching the ball except that blond haired kid who'd managed four goals on his own already, the ball came toward Isobel. She ran for about three feet, stopped dead and kicked the ball as hard as she might. They say in tense moments like this, it seems as though time stood still. Time did not stand still however, the ball damn near did. I'm not convinced that it wasn't the wind rather than the force of her kick, that sent the ball toward the net. Nevertheless, toward the net it did slowly and determinedly roll and the goalie, seized by some rare and twisted form bowel distress squatted as though he might relieve himself there in the crease and the ball leisurely strolled by him.
I don't think it registered with her that she had scored until the coach shouted at her.
"Way to go Isobel, I told you that was your ball."
Izzy looked at me, beaming and gave me a gigantic thumbs up. I returned it, beaming myself and so proud of her for this accomplishment. After the game, she downplayed her pride at her goal. The mark of a true champion. I promised her something special for her first goal and she settled for a bag of jumbo sour gumballs, most of which were in her mouth before we got home.
I don't know that she will continue with sports, I hope she does. She has the drive to succeed in anything she sets her mind to and the optimism to not be afraid to try anything. If I wish any quality about her to remain, it's this one. Too many of us, myself included, are jaded by what others think and what others say. We end up afraid of the unknown as a result. Izzy is fearless...and tougher than I'll ever be. If she ever figures that out, I'm screwed.
The gum after Izzy's amazing goal got me to thinking about The Boy. Four or five years ago we had bought him a pack of gum and, like all kids who find something they enjoy, ate virtually all the pieces at one go. I'm certain we told him not to...or maybe we didn't. At any rate, he ate all twelve or twenty four pieces of sugarless gum and off he went to bed.
"Mummy," he moaned at about three in the morning. "My belly hurts."
"Like you're going to throw up?" Mrs. Narrator asked.
"No, like my belly hurts, like I don't know what I want to do." The Boy said in that broken sickly voice that only a kid has.
"Maybe you need to go to the bathroom," she said. "Sit down on the toilet and maybe you'll feel better."
He did as he was told and thank Christ for that, the flood gates burst open. I am amazed that he didn't come off the toilet with the force of the jet stream leaving his body. He sat awhile until he was convinced it was all OK and then quietly went back to bed. We heard no ore of it that night nor the next day and just figured it was some weird sort of stomach thing.
A couple of days later Mrs. Narrator and I were watching one of favourite programs at the time, House. Long story short some one came in complaining of chronic diarrhea. The diagnosis? Too much aspartame from the sugarless gum he was always chewing. Who knew that aspartame in large amount was a laxative?
The Boy sure as hell did...funny, he doesn't chew a lot of gum anymore.