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Victory and Defeat from the Mom on the Sidelines

Yesterday…

I hold my breath, huddled in the minivan staring at my phone in frustration.  The Iscore site that generally gives me the play by play of my oldest son’s baseball game won’t load, so instead I wait impatiently patient for the texts from the other moms to fill me in. They are there in the trenches, their butts numb and frozen to the bleachers on this chilly evening tensely watching our championship game which is down to the final at bat with bases loaded.

The major leagues wrapped it up weeks ago, but we’re still out there. I am using the Royal ‘we’ of course, because once again my son gave me the official ‘hug off’ before leaving early with Coach Dad for warm ups.

“Bye Mama,” He said, his head nuzzled against my chest.

“Have fun,” I answered, squeezing him.

“Are you coming?” He asked, not looking at me; the hopefulness in his voice piercing my heart.

“Do you want me to come?” I asked, equally hopeful but knowing better.

He shook his head, looked up and gave a bashful smile. “No.”

I nodded. I know the score. Apparently I make him nervous. I get that he wants to impress me which is sweet, but also frustrating, especially when you’re hiding behind trees. Still, I generally respect his wishes, especially on freezing November evenings when my younger boys have a birthday party to go to anyway.

But now the party is over and we are minutes from the field, sitting in our heated car in the restaurant parking lot where the team – win or lose – will be celebrating after their final game of this Fall season. The name of the restaurant is Champions. I hope it’s a premonition.

So I stare at the screen willing a text to appear while my youngest climbs back and forth over the seats, and my middle hangs over mine, breathing hotly into my hair, watching with me. The game is a batter away from over. Bases loaded. 2 outs. We are up 5-4. It’s not my son on the mound – he did his stint admirably in the first
4 2/3 innings, but I feel for his mom, shaking in her shoes on the bench watching her boy up there. That is the kind of pressure on your 12 year-old that makes you want to throw up.

It is taking f o r  e v  errrrrrr! I have nothing to do but whip off text after text to the moms allowed to attend. “I am freaking out!… What’s happening?!…. Come on, Boys!! Do it! Do it!…. ARRRGGGHGhthtghghtitheifrp!!!… Guys!! Tell me what’s happening!!”

Granted they are biting their nails through their gloves, sweating in the 40 degree temps, and their cells screaming silent shouts for attention is not a priority. But they are good to me and after painful, torturous minutes we finally hear, or more accurately see the verdict – WE WIN!!!  photo (14)

I picture my beautiful boy’s joyous face and those of his teammates and friends all jumping on one another, up and down, smiling with pride and relief. It’s the best feeling in the world – winning and knowing you’ve earned it.

And in the bleachers, the dugout and the minivan, the moms and dads exhale.

Today…

I am again sitting vigil in the minivan grinding my teeth, the younger boys in tow. Yesterday’s win was awesome but it’s a new day and right now it’s the final cuts for the middle school basketball team.

Forty boys have already been let go, and they are down to the final 20, but only 15 will make the team. It’s dark, almost 6pm, and the parents tensely line up outside the gym, engines humming restlessly, ready to either bolt for home or do donuts in celebration.

Finally the boys emerge, a few at a time and then a mass of long shorts and growing limbs, patting each other on the backs happily. In the commotion and anticipation, you almost don’t notice the random boy sneaking off to the side, his head hung low. There will be five of those boys and my eyes frantically scan the group.

Will he or won’t he? It could go either way.

Then I see him and I know.

I suck my breath in deep, hold it and try not to cry.

Tomorrow…

 

Accepting rejection and eating the cookie crumbles

I was trying to corral the kids into the kitchen for lunch when I heard the shuffle of heavy feet and the clank of metal on my front porch. I glanced out the front door window in time to see my mailman already trudging back down my walkway to his truck. A large manila envelope jutted conspicuously from my box.

I paid it little mind. There were kids ignoring me and grilled cheese burning; the yellow already darkening into a nice crisp brown that no one would eat but me. Removing it, I slid another slice of cheese onto a fresh piece of bread and placed it in the toaster. I had already used the skillet to make eggs this morning; there would be no buttery pan-fried grilled cheese until I did the dishes.

As I absently peeled and sliced apples, placing the scoffed at skin in my mouth, I wondered about the package. Had I ordered something from the Gap? Amazon? I couldn’t remember. I did order cookies, but that came in a box from UPS. What could it…

Oh.

It was what I had been waiting for, for over a month. Only, I knew before even opening it that it wouldn’t be what I had hoped. The envelope was too thick. In fact, if it had been good news there wouldn’t be an envelope shoved in my mailbox at all. It would be a phone call.

I finished making the kids’ lunch; ignoring their whiny pleas for more milk and attention and anxiously retrieved the package. It held the weight of hundreds of pages of devotion and hard work, of many late nights and early mornings blissfully obsessed.

Normally, I’d leave the envelope on the dining room table and stare it down for a few hours; building up the negativity in my head, making it real, understanding it, while still somehow holding out the hope in my heart that it wasn’t true. That it was in fact just protocol to return a manuscript along with a glowing letter of acceptance.

Impulsively, I ripped open the package. Then, breathing deeply, I gave myself a minute to process.

It was exactly as I expected. Rejection.

I had a flashback of my younger self in the exact same position. Different house, less wrinkles, eyes wider, but yes, me, holding another heavy yellow envelope to the same unfortunate end.

I sighed with disappointment, and then sucked it in and up.

“Anyone want more grilled cheese?” I asked, returning to my real life; the noisy kitchen, the dishes in the sink. Who needs legitimacy and acceptance? Who needs dreams realized? I was needed right here and right now.

Three animated little faces completely ignored me.

“Um, boys?

I watched them chewing their sandwiches, talking over one another, my youngest practically standing on his chair in his inability to contain his energy. It was like I didn’t even exist.

It was too much.

“Who wants cookies?” I blurted out suddenly and all three faces snapped to attention.

“Cookies!” They chanted merrily and my youngest ran over to hug around my legs. My other boys joined in and soon we were one clump of bodies jumping gleefully.

Finally, I was feeling some love.

And it was a good thing because I was about to cry.

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