Sunday, July 22, 2007

Glory Days

Last week my younger daughter attended lacrosse camp here in town. Three teenage girls from England ran the camp, giving instructions on the fundamentals of a game that was new and foreign to my daughter and me. The lead instructor was named Lou (short for Louise, I suppose). She’s a cute, 18 year old, blond, pony tailed pixie, who stands about five feet tall. A real dynamo. She speaks in a heavy British accent, kind of a cross between Mary Poppins and one of the Spice Girls. I found her quite charming.

“If it should rain today,” she said, “I’ll give you a bell and you can come and retrieve your daughter.”

“A what? I asked.”

“A bell.” She repeated.

“Are you from England?” I asked (it was quite obvious.)

“I am.”

“What part?” I asked as if I were some sort of expert on the country.

“Near the Isle of Wight… Have you heard of it?”

Just in the Beatle’s song…you know…When I’m 64?”

I began to sing:

“Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it’s not too dear.”

“Right then,” She said, now looking down... as if she were embarrassed for me.

Before I left, Lou handed me the required paper work and told me that on Friday there would be a graduation game: the girls vs. the parents. She said she would love for me to join them. I usually work nights and miss these parent/child activities, but I was on vacation this week and was excited to say I’d attend.

When Friday arrived, I started to get pumped up for the big game. I didn’t want to act like one of those super-competitive, macho middle-aged men, who try and relive their high school glory days, especially at the expense of small children. On the other hand, I didn’t want to look like an old, out of shape has-been either.

When we got to the field Lou split us into two groups. The parents were dubbed “Team UK” and the girls were named “Team Gambia.” Before the face-off, Lou explained the rules and emphasized that there would be “no checking.” I took this to mean, “checking”… like in hockey. I showed my ignorance on the very first play of the game. It happened when a little Gambian sped past me. I swung into action, thrusting my stick under hers and knocking the ball free. Lou blew her whistle and shook her head in disgust.

NO CHECKING BOB!!!” she yelled.

“That’s checking? I asked incredulously.

“It is, and Team Gambia gets the ball. Now stand back four meters.”

The parents on the sidelines began to heckle and boo me.

Shortly after this embarrassment, a little freckled-faced seven-year-old girl named “Riley” came charging down the field. I wanted to show the fans just how athletic a 45- year- old man could be and I started running backward. I had underestimated Riley’s speed, tripped on a tuft of grass and did a triple backward somersault. My glasses flew one way and my hat went the other. Sometime during my second rotation I heard the spectators in the bleachers burst into laughter. “That’s showin’em,” my friend Art shouted from the sideline.

I had something to prove now. On the very next play I intercepted a pass mid-air. I cradled the ball in the webbing of my stick, now running down the field at full speed toward the opposing goalie net. Past one Gambian- past two Gambians-I was now all alone. I cocked my arm back, and catapulted my stick forward at the open side of the net. Whoosh! went the stick as it whizzed past my ear. Plop! went the ball as it fell out of the netting and landed at my feet.

Suddenly, I was transported back in time. I’m 17- years old and running down the soccer field at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven. Mark, the team all-star, and I are on a break away. We pass one defender-two defenders-I’m now in front of an open goalie’s net. Mark makes a perfect pass. The balls right in front of me, (this is my big moment.) I cock my leg back, swing my leg forward and... miss the ball completely.

Glory days my eye!

At the end of the lacrosse game, my friend Art patted me on the back and said, “At least you did a great triple back flip.”

I smirked, shook my head and said, “And I would have gotten a perfect “10” if it wasn’t for the Russian judge.”

The instructors gathered Team Gambia together and began handing out awards. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get one. Soon, pizzas were delivered onto the field and we had a little impromptu picnic. Lou came over and congratulated me on a good game. "Wow," she said, "You must have run four kilometers going up and down that field." I did a quick metric conversion in my head and stuck my chest out. I then told Lou that it was "no big deal." Somewhere in my brain a Springsteen tune began to play:
Glory Days
well they'll pass you by
Glory days
in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Kitty Conductor

If this catches on, I could be out of a job: