When Ally was born, her feet looked like little dinner rolls. You know, those slightly rectangular puffs of flour that make your mouth water and always come to the table of an old school restaurant, warm and just waiting to melt some butter. Those. Those were Ally’s feet. We couldn’t imagine how she could ever walk on those adorable little toes attached to dinner rolls, let alone play a sport.
But pretty soon after she walked, much to our amazement, she was kicking a ball. And it wasn’t long after that, that she fell in love with soccer. From her u5 town rec. league, to futsol, MPS club soccer and high school soccer, Ally kicked that ball with abandon and glee through Florida, England, Tanzania and Zanzibar, not to mention all over New England, New York and New Jersey.
Of course, it wasn’t just the soccer that captured her heart, it was the friendships she made, the laughs, the snacks, the unbeatable camaraderie. And this, as I’ve said before, is the true gift of soccer, that has nothing to do with the ball, the goal or the field. And during her college career at Trinity, this is where Ally really excelled.
When Ally was a goalie!
The duo. Liz forever.
In Florida with the Lapidus’.
While Ally still has fierce soccer skills, college soccer is fast and furious. Playing time has been hard to get, but no matter, Ally made her mark by being the heart and soul of her team. She has welcomed every freshman team member, encouraging, supporting and making them laugh. She has worked hard to make her soccer sisters their best selves. She has had a positive attitude through some very tumultuous team politics. This, this is what I’m most proud of. And for me, this is what is most valuable in all she’s learned in the 17 years she’s been kicking a ball.
This weekend we celebrated at the Senior Game, held during homecoming. It was a sunny, beautiful day, with our friends and family. Jake came in from California,one of her biggest fans, Uncle Frank, her unofficial coach for her whole life and my sister Joni, who still can’t understand off-sides, never mind that her husband, Frank is one of the foremost experts on soccer (an amazing sports writer) were there and have always been there. We went out to a special toast-filled, gift-laden dinner with our favorite players and parents and back to her house for some fun. It was perfect!
Today is the last game ever. Whether she plays or doesn’t means nothing. Her dad, who has been Ally’s driver and number one fan and soccer confidante, gave an eloquent toast at breakfast the morning after, which soothed our hangovers. He said, “Ally, I’m ready for soccer to be over. I needed it all those years when I couldn’t talk to you about girl things and periods and boys. I could always talk to you about soccer. It was how we bonded. But now, you and I have so many other things to talk about, like politics and justice and the world, I don’t need soccer anymore.” And that’s right. Ally used to be only about soccer, but now, she’s about so many other things. She’s so much more than just soccer.
The Holy Trinity!
And so, I’m raising my coffee to my girl, here this morning. She has taught this non-team playing mom a lot. Grateful for all she’s sacrificed, all she’s learned, and all she’s become.
(You’re so lucky my iphoto is not working, or this post would be a hundred pictures longer!)
It’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.
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.
I went on a jam-packed two week trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar, and I thought I would be able to blog, on not one, but two blogs while I was there.
That so did not happen (but you already know that). Between our schedule being rigorous, and the internet service, and my computer telling me my start-up disc was full, which didn’t allow me to download my pictures, and the runs, and general exhaustion, blogging was just impossible.
But my gratitude meter was on! Like, SO ON.
This trip was extraordinary on 1,394,571,398 levels.
It was the first time I had ever visited a third world country, and it didn’t disappoint in terms of BLOWING MY MIND RIGHT OUT OF MY HEAD. There are pockets of poverty that are unimaginable. I started to feel like I was in a Sally Strothers Save the Children commercial. This is a heavily populated Muslim area, so women wear hijab, and their colorful mix of patterns against the dingy, dark colors of downtown Dar es Salaam was especially stunning. (The way the weather hit my hair making it look look like so many dry cornfields we saw later in our trip, I considered pretending to be Muslim for a few weeks, with all due respect, of course).
Here are some sort of random pics of the trip. I have yet to sift through my almost 1,000 photographs!
The city of Dar is a chaotic mix of commerce and traffic, with every kind of vehicle jetting around, including women and men carrying everything from garbage to bananas on their heads, not to mention the occasional goat or cow. Traffic lights are a few, and when they are encountered they’re treated like a suggestion more than a law. Oh, and did I mention they drive on the other side of the road? Yeah, you not only feel disoriented by the vastly different surroundings, but also by the fact that you think you’re going to crash into oncoming traffic every few seconds.
There were eleven of us. Four adults, and seven kids ranging in age between 13 and 18. The trip was planned by a teacher Ally had for a class called Global Leadership. His grandfather began an organization 70 years ago called Pathfinder International, which helps women worldwide with sexual and reproductive healthcare. It’s an exceptional organization, and we were allowed to visit several sites to see the kind of work they do. We visited a small village outside of Dar es salaam where we sat in on a 20 year old woman getting counseled on her birth control options (she had a four year old at home and a five month old in her arms). We then visited the hospital she would get that birth control. We had a raucous party with the Dar Pathfinder staff, visited their office in Zanzibar, where we were taken to a six week parenting class for parents and caregivers to learn how to talk to their kids about how to stay safe. The kids were there for this particular class and it was very emotional to see the conversations take place (even though we couldn’t understand them because they were in Swahili). This was a group of people trying to change cultural norms. It was moving. We also visited a Masai village to learn about micro-lending, where we were greeted with the most joyful song and dance number EVER! We planted trees together and ate goat (well, some of us did). We met with religious leaders in Zanzibar, where we exchanged questions and answers. We visited a maternity ward named for Ally’s teacher’s wife, because she and her husband helped build it many years ago. We met women who had just had their babies a day ago, and the amazing doctors and nurses who worked there. We went to a private school in Zanzibar that rivaled an American private school and which had a beautiful orphanage attached. We met with the kindergarten class, who gave us so much attention and pure unadulterated joy not one of us could stop smiling. We went to The Big Tree School, which a passionate teacher opened in his brother’s house, where three year old’s and five year old’s learned the basics in a bare bones building without many supplies (you will hear more about this, as I am interested in helping this school build a new building and offering them supplies).
We went to a soccer game in Dar where we were literally the ONLY WHITE PEOPLE. Heads swiveled when we arrived, but everybody was incredibly nice to us. It was eye opening to be in the minority.
We also worked with Coaches Across Continents, who uses sports and in particular soccer to instill educational messages. For instance, they will put together a soccer game where boys will come to play and slip in messages about domestic violence, and rape, and birth control. We played soccer at The National Stadium of Zanzibar (where we saw many young people running without shoes, which prompted me to pledge having a sneaker and clothing drive when I arrived home), and soccer with The New Generation Queens, the only girl’s soccer team in Zanzibar. We also played with several other groups of mixed age boys and girls. We learned about how girls playing soccer has not been acceptable because of it being thought of as a “masculine” game. But we saw and heard first hand how it empowers girls and women when they play. There were also lots of pick up games with little kids, who could charm the clothes off your body.
Lastly, we went on safari at the Ngorongoro Crater. It was INSANE! Lions, zebras, wildebeasts, wart hogs, elephants, hippos, gazelles, monkeys, ostriches, and a very distantly visible rhino.
And of course, we learned to bargain (some of us learned to bargain better than others). We swam with dolphins (sort of), and we ate a lot of Indian food.
The people of Tanzania were generous, warm and welcoming. All the Pathfinder staff were incredibly nice to us. We all wanted to bring home our guide in Zanzibar, Fatma, a 22 year old biochemistry student at a University in India, who was the epitome of warmth and grace, and who even invited us to her home to have an enormous dinner with all the things she’d witnessed we’d eaten during our time with her. Her extended family greeted us warmly and treated us like part of the clan. We have invited Fatma to come visit us. We know we’ll stay in touch with her. She is a bright star and we’ll never be able to thank her for her presence or the wonderful gifts she gave us the last day we spent with her.
This trip was something I will be processing for months to come. It was mind expanding and changed my perception of what I spend money on, and how that money could hugely impact a life in Tanzania.
You will hear more over the weeks, but the gratitude I feel about having this adventure (and missing the Republican convention) is YUGE.
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.
To be a good soccer parent, 9/10th’s of the law states “NO GLOATING. EVER.” But just for today, just this once, I’m going to have to break that law. So throw me in jail. Go head.
Yesterday Ally’s team was playing the rival team of Newton North. Last year they won the State Championship, and crushed us. They’re always, in fact, crushing us. What with their giant, gorgeous new school, and their great sports teams, they are usually, in all sports, the team to beat. Anyway, this is always a big game. And it’s always even bigger for Ally because the coach of Newton North has been her Club Team coach for the past three years. It was super beautiful out, I crutched myself there, along with the boy’s Varsity soccer team, and a pretty big crowd of parents and kids. N.N. had a slew of graduating seniors last year, so we knew their team was not going to be in its usual kick-ass form, and with our awesome new coach, and a bunch of strong new freshman, we had our fingers crossed.
We dominated, but we couldn’t seem to score. Our goalie got knocked out by a deep cut, which required stitches, so we had to use a field player as goalie (the other goalie had a possible concussion). Things were tense, when Miss Ally Lansbury made a left-footed goal. OH YES SHE DID! The crowd went wild and I totally wanted to abandon my boot and dance, but realized that would not be a smart move, so instead I screamed more loudly than I ever have. In my life. Like, ever. I tell you, the parents in Newton who weren’t at the game, must have heard me. (I’m hoarse today). For a moment the world actually stopped. Seriously, I’m fairly certain if you check your watch, it is exactly one minute slow today. It was just a perfect confluence of things that came together to make a memory that will be with my family until the day we breathe our last breaths, and then some.
Here’s why it was extra special cool: Ally’s Club coach has always given her feedback about “finishing,” that she’s a great player, but she has to finish. So the fact that she did and that it “finished” his team was just as good as it gets. Ally’s goal was the only goal of the game, which, if you haven’t already put two and two together, means we won!
So, sorry for gloating, but that one perfect moment is too good not to share. It’s funny how sometimes things come together like they did yesterday. And when they do, you gotta take notice, on account of how much they don’t. So, Gooooooo Warriors. And congratulations to my rock star daughter. OH YES I DID.
Aaaaaaand the Brookline High Girls Varsity Soccer season starts today. Chairs in the trunk. Check. Sweatshirts in the trunk. Check. Raincoats, umbrellas, sunscreen, baseball hats. Check, check, check, check.
We had a rather rough(read: all kinds of BAD) season last year, but with a brand new coach, who seems to worship soccer the way my daughter does, this is already a better season (and it hasn’t even begun).
Peter and I try to go to every game. Hopefully, my bunion surgery will not prevent me from watching (how would it do that?) I just mean that I hope that I’m not in so much pain that I’m yowling and all sorts of cranky pants, making the other parents scared, and maybe making them want to call, like, Animal Control, because I’m such a beast.
Anyway, soccer is good. Soccer is great. And with any luck, we’ll get to the playoffs this year. And I will have a brand new foot by the time the season ends. That’s the goal. Hahahahahah.
Billy Joel rocked Fenway Park last night, and kicked off my summer with a big gosh darn bang. After having to call in sick for my Madison Square Garden birthday gift from Peter, I got a re-do last night and it was effing awesomeness. At 65, the piano man’s still got it going on, and well, Fenway is a super cool place to see live music. They should really turn that place into a concert venue.
My sister is back. My sister is back. Gratitude times a bajillion.
I am going to the happy place tomorrow for two weeks. No, not a wing at McClean’s, the Vineyard, silly.
Ann Coulter continues to amaze in her profoundly inane and uneducated rant on soccer. She calls hating it America’s favorite pastime. Hating her is mine.
The flight was long. And the amount of space I had for my feet was as big as your computer (unless you have, like, the first computer ever made that filled a room). But we finally landed in Barcelona and Jake surprised us by meeting us at the airport (he’d said he’d meet us at the hotel). I screamed, sort of loudly. And the embarrassing Lansbury’s hit Barcelona.
Exhausted, but also running on the adrenaline of seeing my kid for the first time in three months, we got to our hotel, which is great place and right off La Rambla, which I would translate into “Big Street of Shopping and Stuff,” and changed into warmer clothes to go see FC Barcelona play soccer.
On the way, we hit La Boqueria for a quick look and our first, but I’m sure not our last, taste of Barcelona’s famous ham. Delish. And off to the metro, which is almost exactly like the T. A crowd of 70,000 watched the most excellent soccer I’ve ever seen. 4-zip, we win. And how about this–they don’t sell alcohol at the games–completely straight fans! Just a bunch of people high on their team. Pretty cool.
Home to sleep. Like a rock. Up for dinner at 10, but not feeling well, I let the fam enjoy their first spanish meal, and I sleep more. I’m never good in a jet lag situation. I am so grateful to be here. Jake seems so much more adult than when he left. Day 1, Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.
This weekend was a powerful reminder of how much control you don’t have as a parent. It was the kind of emotionally charged, fight or flight misery that comes from not being able to do a damn thing to help your kids feel better. Ah, but let me back up and give you the full scoop.
Ally is on an elite club soccer team. The girl is great. She is very close to her team. They travel frequently, and are very bonded to one another. The team won the State Cup last year, and after that gave the girls contracts. Some girls got a full year. Some got a half year, with a review. It has been a rather stressful six months for Ally, knowing that every practice, every game, was a chance to show her coach she was a worthy player. Saturday was not only a tournament, but also the day of reckoning.
As I was watching the second game, Jake’s face popped up on my phone. “Mom, I was playing lacrosse and a stick hit me and my helmet cracked and it cut above my eye and my friends are taking me to the hospital for stitches. Just wanted you to know”. His voice was calm. I don’t have to describe my response BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT IT WAS. It was part babbling infant mixed with howling hyena. I did manage to say, “Call me as soon as you’re at the hospital.” I got off and told Peter, who said, “Oh, he’ll be fine.” Immersed in the game, he left me to my psychotic worry. I was already freaked out about the idea that Ally might not make the team, and couldn’t even eat the fabulous lunch a parent had made for us at her house, because my stomach was in the Olympic gymnastics event. Now, I had Jake to worry about. Did he have a concussion? Would the doctors know to do a plastic surgery type of job on him, and not slap together some stitches that would give him a weird scar. I called him over and over again, but he didn’t answer, so I called Jessie, his girlfriend, who I knew could use the magic power of her girlfriend-ness to get through. She calmly told me not to worry and that he was going to be fine. She told me she and her mom would go to the hospital if I wanted, but she said he seemed to be doing ok with his friends, and things were pretty straight forward. (Jessie is the best.) I felt 1% better. I continued to think about leaving and letting Peter and Ally get a ride home with another parent, but decided against it, knowing Ally might need me.
After playing two games in a tournament OUTSIDE, I might add (you know, where there is still SNOW and stuff) Ally stood on the sidelines with her coach to get her review. Peter and I stood several feet away, like statues, observing her profile for any signs of the outcome. Almost immediately, I could tell she hadn’t made it. I knew that the billboards for “Difficult Parenting Ahead” would be popping up any minute. Peter was in disbelief, as all signs had made him think her place on the team was safe. When it looked like they were wrapping up, I forced Peter to go and talk to the coach. I knew if I went over, bad things would come out of my mouth, and I might not be able to control my hands, or feet. Ally walked toward me and one of her other team mates, and told us both the news. She would play down a team for five months and be guaranteed a contract for 2014 on her current team. The coach wanted her to get more playing time, to play the whole game, instead of just 15 minutes, in an effort to improve her play. And although, I saw it as the coach’s commitment to her development as an even stronger player than she already was, it was not a scenario we’d ever considered. And for Ally, it was the first defeat she’d ever encountered. We went to the car and the tears started. There was some wailing. There was some sobbing. There was a lot of snot. Ally did not want to talk. This was hard because that’s all I want to do when something goes wrong for me, but I had to respect her process, so I sat quietly crying in the front seat. Peter drove like a zombie. Ally handed me her phone with a picture of Jake’s gash that was already circulating on Facebook. I have never felt queasy around anything medical, but I actually almost threw up. One inch, maybe less than one inch, and his eye would have been gone. GONE as in not there anymore. No question. One inch lower, and he would have been been blinded.
We sped home from Hopkinton, but not in time to get to the hospital. Jake was already on his way home. He looked very much like he’d been in a fight with Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky, his forehead bulging with swelling, his eye practically shut. They had managed to sew his eyebrow together, and was given the directions not to exercise or do any heavy lifting. (oh great, the garbage was on me now.) I was already sorry he was playing lacrosse this year. As if Ally’s response to her news hadn’t already put me in a state, Jake just iced the cake.
My guilt for not having been there for Jake, AFTER HIS FACE WAS SLICED OPEN, was the size of Detroit, no Texas, no Switzerland (it’s prettier). But the truth was, that he appeared to be calm and ok (unlike moi). He had handled it just fine, was matter-of-fact (but clearly shaken) and taking it in stride in a way that surprised me. He’d had to miss the second playoff BHS basketball game, but as the Super Fan that he is, was following it on his phone like the president follows breaking news. Maybe Jake was ready for college after all. Maybe this was just to show me how ready he was to be on his own, because if this happened next year at this time, I wouldn’t be there either.
Ally continued to cry. She cried herself to sleep and actually woke up crying. I barely slept, I felt so out of sorts, so parentally unproductive, as in I could do nothing to help either one of my kids feel better. The events of the day were on a loop in my find, and kept me up most of the night, until I finally just called it at 5:00 and got up. I was meeting my roommate and old college friend, who I lived on Newbury Street with right after school, for the first time in 28 years, back down on Newbury St. for brunch. I was going to be really cute, what with the crying I did the day before and the no sleep! Anyway, I left Peter sitting with Ally, whose crying had made her look a lot like a blowfish, and who was still sobbing. I considered canceling my plans, but Peter had a way with Ally that made her talk, which I didn’t possess. These two have the most endearing and incredible relationship (which is a whole other post). They are a lot alike and speak the same emotional language. I knew she was in gifted hands.
I didn’t check my phone until after the brunch, but Peter had texted that the coach had contacted him to see if Ally could play the last game in the tournament, because another girl was sick. He said he was going to let her decide. I called him. He said Ally was icing her eyes, and they were on their way. This is how my daughter and I differ. If I were in that situation, I would have folded, and said, no, because I would have been too upset and embarrassed, and plus I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to see my swollen eyes, and plus I would have been hating the coach so much, I might not be able to control my words, and also I would be so upset, I might have already enrolled in the witness relocation program. But Ally de-puffed her eyes, got on her cleats and was given a hero’s welcome by her team. She was the starting forward, and scored a goal within minutes of beginning the game. Her entire team embraced her, and she even got a surprise hug from her coach. She came home in a completely different frame of mind, having been supported by every girl, the coach, and the parents, and seeing that that this move was to make her an even stronger player for 2014. This was Ally’s first real bit of adveristy. And while she got a good tear duct workout, she rallied in record time. She’s done a lot of great things in her little life, but this was the most proud I’d ever felt of her. The girl not only has great athletic ability, she has great character.
As for Jake, he looked like a five year old who’d gotten into his mother’s purple eyeshadow on Sunday morning. The swelling was worse, and his eye was almost shut. He sat on the couch all day watching a mix of sports and movies. His fab girlfriend came over, and together we gave Ally a standing O when she walked in the door, high from her success.
This is what parenting can be like. Things happen to your kids, and sometimes there’s not a NUTHIN’ you can do about them. And the pit in your stomach feels like the cast of Riverdance is doing their thing in there. But it’s Monday, and we seemed to have survived. And I think, although we’re all a little wearier, we’re all ok. And most importantly, my kids showed me who they have become. Adults.