Those Boys Would Hurt You

A lifetime ago, my husband and I played roller hockey.  It started with a handful of people playing pick-up in a converted tennis court in a city park.  It grew into a league of four teams that played two seasons a year, and eventually even involved us playing a season or two for the local university.

I wasn’t good and I certainly make no claim to have been, but it was fun and good exercise.  Very early on, I learned the value of a face mask (I was one of the few who were already wearing a helmet) when I collided with a co-worker who wore thick glasses to protect his eyes.  Those thick glasses were briefly smashed between our faces before I hit the ground hard.

As the only woman on the court, I felt the urgent need to get up quickly so as not to look weak and unable to take a collision.  I quickly rolled onto my knees and opened my eyes as I prepared to push myself to standing.  That’s when I noticed the blood gushing from my face and thought uh-oh.  I stayed put with my head down so the blood poured straight to the court instead of down my clothes.

Someone eventually gave me a dirty T-shirt to press against my forehead and then people helped me strip off my skates after guiding me to a bench to sit down.  Then my husband, very carefully avoiding the I told you so that had to be in his head (we had argued about the need for face masks just that afternoon), drove the co-worker and me to the emergency room.

He got 8 stitches.  I got 11 – straight through my right eyebrow.  Since he arrived to work before me the next morning, the crowd eagerly awaited my arrival.  Ah, yes… those were the days.

Pregnancy and hockey do not mix well, so my career, such as it was, ended a couple of years later with the Fall 1999 season.  The summer of 2000, about 6 or 7 months pregnant with Jane, I briefly donned skates and wobbled unsteadily around the rink, taking a shot – and scoring – on one of my fellow goalies.  That was my last time to wear skates and hold a stick.  Motherhood took over from there.

Until last night.

One of the men from those days was looking for a way to get himself back in shape.  And looking for a way for his son to play hockey without having to travel to a major town.  He’s starting up a league and holding pick-up games in the mean time.

He’s been encouraging my husband to join him and he finally did last week.  I went too because Hal wanted to see what it was all about.  That set a series of events into motion where we dug out our gear, found some cheap gear for the boys at a thrift shop, and took them skating a couple of times before they headed off to summer camp and grandparents’ houses.  Jane declined to participate.

Last night, with all the children gone, I joined my husband at the rink once again, this time dragging my dilapidated and broken bag behind me.  When I told the ticket man that we were paying for two people, he looked shocked.  “You are going to go out there and hit?!” he asked.

“I’m going to give it a go,” I responded, not bothering to mention that checking is usually avoided in recreational play.  At forty years old and after a fifteen year break, I wondered a bit if I was crazy.

I had a blast.

A serious blast.

I felt so alive skating back and forth, even if a bit unsteady.  It was a thrill to hold the stick and control the ball or puck (we had both out there).  There were three young boys too and we worked with them on their skills.  I was exhausted and exhilarated.

At one point, as I sat on the bench, panting for breath, a very young, small girl walked up.  She indicated to her mother that she wanted to go out on the rink.  Her mother told her no.  One of the men pointed out that I was skating.

“Yes,” her mother said, “She’s already told me that there is a girl out there.  But she can’t play – she’s a girly girl through and through.  The first time she fell down, she’d cry.”

“The first time those boys fall down, they cry too,” I commented.  And it was true.  Tears had been shed by at least one boy already.  I wondered briefly if girly girls are girly girls because they are or because their mothers insist they are.  Because that’s what they want.  This girl certainly appeared interested in joining the game.

The girl, of course, was not dressed appropriately for playing hockey.  In my mind, she wasn’t dressed appropriately at all, wearing just sandals, short shorts, and a sports bra-like top.  But she was obviously interested in what was going on on the rink.

I died a little bit inside when she reiterated her desire to go out there and her mother murmured, “No, honey.  Those boys would hurt you.”

The woman, I knew, wouldn’t have said that if the girl had been a boy.  The girl’s seven year old brother, after all, was out there right then.  All the boys were heavily padded and flopping down constantly.  None could stay on their feet for long nor move particularly fast.  No one was going to be hurting anyone.

But this girl was already learning her proper place in the world – on the sidelines unless it involved dance or cheer.  A hockey rink is no place for a lady.  With a sigh of regret, I slapped my helmet back on my head and returned to the action.

I should have said something.  I shouldn’t have worried about meddling with this woman’s child-rearing and her narrow view of the world.  I should have turned to the little girl and said, “Yes, you might get hurt.  But it’s not the boys that will hurt you.  It just happens when you do something worth doing.  You have to get up and keep going.  You can do it if you want to.”

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Small Wonders… or Sibling Love

It was a rough weekend. My arms are swollen and itchy with poison ivy, acquired while doing cleanup at a cemetery on Saturday. My husband is still recovering from some severe vertigo that hit him hard on Sunday. Jane was surprised by an early arrival for which she had not packed supplies. And Daryl… well, Daryl beat himself up.

One of our church members found what he thought was a sturdy grapevine at the cemetery and suggested the boys swing on it. He helped Hal swing and then backed up as Daryl took a turn. Daryl swung into the air and then slammed into the ground when the vine snapped, landing hard on his back. He was ok but didn’t believe it. He walked around gingerly and moaned about his back for some time.

By that evening, however, he had found sufficient distraction from his back. At the hotel, he ran across the courtyard to fetch his swimsuit and tripped, severely skinning his knee. Sorry, kid, we can’t let you in the pool.

He was devastated. Hal was already dressed in his swimsuit so Poppy prepared to take him to the pool. A dark cloud descended over Daryl’s face. He looked as though the world would never be right again.

Jane sat down beside him and wrapped him in a hug. She began to talk softly to him, rubbing his arms and leaning her face in close to his. I expected him to shrug her off like he normally would, but instead he listened. She said, “I know how you feel. I really do. I wanted to go swimming but I can’t either.”

“Yes you can,” he responded. “Nothing is stopping you.”

“Yes it is,” she said. “My period started and so now I can’t go swimming. We are in the same boat. Maybe we can watch some TV instead.”

I had a hard time imagining a nine year old boy being comforted by a story of menstrual distress, but to my great surprise, he cheered up immediately. He scrambled onto the bed across from the TV and waited for his sister to turn it on.

Small wonders. I can’t believe she shared that information and I can’t believe the tactic worked. Small wonders, indeed.

The Perils of Pole Climbing

Daryl loves to climb poles. He’s gotten pretty good at it over the years too, perfecting his wrap-around leg technique to grasp the pole with the edges of his shoes. We recently found ourselves at the high school football field, where Daryl saw an excellent pole climbing challenge: the field goal.

This pole was considerably fatter than his usual regimen and a bit taller as well. With some effort, however, he was soon calling out from the cross bar, “Mommy! Daddy! Look at me! I did it!”

We congratulated his success but told him to hurry down because we were leaving. He slid back down the pole and joined us. As we walked, he began to explain the proper approach to climbing a fat pole.

“With a big pole like that, it’s all about speed. You’ve got to keep moving or you’ll slip back down.”

“I see,” I responded. “I’m glad you got it figured out.”

“The pole was pretty rough, though. Look at my leg,” he said, turning to show me the scraped inside of his right leg.

“Ouch,” I said.

“Yeah, it kind of hurts. I’m all scratched up.”

“Looks like it.”

When we got to the car, he resumed the complaints, possibly because he didn’t feel that I had given his injuries the attention they deserved. “Why did that pole have to be so rough? I’ve got scratches all over. It really hurts.”

“Well, maybe when you realize that a pole is so rough, you should stop trying to climb it.”

In a fierce and determined voice, he declaimed, “No. I Do Not. Give Up.”

“Well then maybe you should quit whining about how rough the pole was. You don’t sound very tough complaining about it so much.”

Seriously, son. You don’t get to be tough and whiny at the same time. Pick one.

Teddy’s Wisdom

The boys had a large stick in their room. In make-believe world, it was a bow, used for taking down evil orcs or some other manner of beasts. To the dog, it was just a stick, something to carry around.

And so it was that Rose found the stick and picked it up, walking out of the room. Hal was fascinated.

“Mommy! Did you know that Rose can carry a big stick?”

“But she can’t walk softly,” amended his Dad.

I love little moments like this when I feel like we are acting out a children’s movie. Enjoyable on the surface for the kids but a little extra reference that only the grown-ups understand.

*And, yes, I realize the quote is “speak softly” but that’s not what my husband said. It would have been accurate though. The dog doesn’t speak any more softly than she walks.

Addendum: I wrote this short bit a few days ago. It was trumped first by a tumbling bottle of soda and then by a boy who thought a potholder was a towel. Tonight the house seems especially quiet. Rose is spending the night at the vet’s office after slicing her foot pretty bad while chasing rabbits in the yard. It seems appropriate to share one of her tales in honor of the poor dog, who is certainly missing us as much as we are missing her.