gratitude-a-thon day 1095: the girl with the ball(s)

 

22050128_1483625071722574_971191049338250229_nIt’s soccer season right now and we have traveled to Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, twice a week, to night games, morning games, tailgates with so much food, a small Italian village could show up and we could feed them.

I have a Grand Canyon of gratitude watching Ally play soccer. It makes me feel like I  could literally burst wide open and need an ambulance to bring me to Grace Memorial on Grey’s Anatomy. It’s not the usual pride a parent feels watching their kid on a field. This has to do with watching my kid on a field after not being on a field for two years. It has to do with the crushing blow of tearing her ACL senior year and the deep sadness that followed that event, the confusion, the pain, the surgery, the mental anguish, the endless rehab, the scar tissue, the wondering if she’d ever again play the sport she’d put enormous chunks of her life into, that she’d given up so much for, that she’d loved like a boyfriend. Nobody knew if she’d really make it back.

So, she worked. She battled. She pushed.

Still, she came up short freshman year and didn’t play during the season. Too much scar tissue dogged her with pain. Still we went to every game just to see her warm-up because seeing her run on a field is better than Caribbean blue water and if you know me for one second, you know  I want to marry Caribbean blue water. Seeing Ally run with the ball at her feet lit us up, since we so intimately knew what it meant for her to be doing so. It mattered little that she wasn’t playing. She had fought. She was still fighting. It wasn’t her cleats we loved, it was her spirit.

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And this year she plays. Her strong powerful legs run back and forth, and her eyes dart up and down the field assessing and strategizing. Her passes can look effortless, leaving me to wonder how they can make it across a field of opponents and find her teammates feet. Her mistakes cause us to gasp, but really, we just feel punch drunk that she is is out on that field, the place she has run a million physical and mental miles to get back to. Never matters whether she wins or loses. She’s already won.

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gratitude-a-thon day 507: she didn’t get it from me

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Having not been an athlete growing up (I was a cheerleader, but Ally says that doesn’t count), I’m always wowed by my daughter’s soccer skills. It’s not just that she knows what to do with a ball on the field, it’s that she actually has balls on the field. Which is to say that she’s brave. She goes out there and has to listen to trash talk, play against girls bigger and better, and not bow underneath the intense pressure of a team that’s relying on every player to do their best. Some games are such high intensity, I barely have what it takes to watch from the sidelines.

Team play is as good as any class you can take. You learn things you couldn’t learn anywhere else. And lots of them are about yourself. Ally has given up a lot to play at the high level she chooses to play at, but she lives for the rush, the camaraderie, I think maybe even the stress. Nothing I’ve ever done (except maybe watch all the seasons of Lost,which took a huge emotional toll, let’s face it) compares to the commitment that she’s given to sports. I had to learn about hard work, resilience, and tenacity elsewhere. But Ally has been practicing those skills since she was five. And she’s actually had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends while she was doing it.

As the college thing approaches (we just came back from a college showcase tournament), soccer will be a huge consideration for Ally, as she chooses where she’ll spend her four years. Soccer, which has been such a big part of her life, will now become an even bigger part of her more adult life. I marvel at her strength. I envy her love of the game. I am grateful to be able to have watched her grow up on a field. Turns out fields are really good at helping you grow up. I wish I’d known that when I was a kid.