Monday, October 13, 2008
When the Midwest was first settled by Scandinavian, Norwegian, Finnish, German, and Polish immigrants, they must have been attracted by the area's climate. Harsh winters, grey skies, rain, snow, and sleet had to have given them a sense of comfortable familiarity. As a West Coast transplant to the Midwest, I have less affinity for the winter, and after twenty-two winters I'm actually intolerant. But growing up in Seattle, I understand and welcome the rain. So it's no surprise that I have sat through my share of soccer games in a heavy downpour, as well as the remainder of the Midwest weather spectrum.
Tuesday night was no exception. The game was Robbie's last conference game of his high school life, so as a milestone it couldn't be missed. Naturally the weather report came in as: Monday sunny and 64, Tuesday heavy rains and 55, Wednesday sunny and 72, Thursday sunny and 70, Friday sunny and 70. . . You get the picture. The weather gods conspired against us. As I strode up to purchase my ticket, the teacher who volunteered to collect the admission said, "This school has the most loyal parents. They will come out and sit through anything to support their kids." I agreed as I shifted the two umbrellas, three towels, blanket, heavy jacket, and plastic bag to the other arm so I could get my money out. But I also knew a secret . . . this wasn't the only group of parents willing to brave the elements to support their kids.
I have yet to experience the shirtless dad on the sidelines in minus 15 degrees with a soccer ball painted on his belly. But I have witnessed tremendous parental support despite the elements. I have joined parents in the midst of snowstorms, tornado warnings, monsoons, blazing Saharan summers, and wildfires. During the latter everyone was choking on the smoke as they urged their players who were also choking. I don't think there have been many games called on account of soot. I have learned to be ready for anything. Umbrellas work for snow, rain, and sun. I've put an umbrella on the ground covering my legs on days when the sun was at a low angle or the rain was driving parallel to the ground. I've huddled with people I barely knew in a survivalist attempt to stay warm. I've sat in my car with six soccer players waiting for lightning to pass and then watched them finish the match in a deluge that came so hard and so fast six inches of standing water accumulated on the field and sidelines.
As parents we all think our kids are magnificent and special. We sacrifice our time, our money, and on certain days even our health to give them support. It's not surprising that we gather even in the face of Mother Nature's fury to provide for them the cheers to make it all worthwhile. The teacher who took my admission on Tuesday wasn't a mom yet, so she hadn't been brought into the club. Once she has her own soccer players or actors or go-carters she'll join the legions of parents who defy the elements because their kids are. When Shane, our youngest daughter, was a cheerleader her high school went to the state sectionals in football. It was early November, but it was an ice storm with winds approaching gale force and temperatures below zero Fahrenheit. The cheerleaders were all dressed in their sweaters, short skirts, and tights. I had on four layers plus heaters in my gloves and boots and two blankets. The girls lasted the first half, but they realized that there was no way they could continue for another half. They gladly accepted our blankets and sat with us to watch the football squad try to handle the pigskin that was iced up and hard as a rock. I don't even remember if her high school team won. I do remember that it took about a year to shake the chill out of my bones. But I'd do again, because that's what parents do.
And the best proof I have of that came at the game Tuesday night. Our opponent traditionally wasn't competitive. The team and their parents knew that the chance of beating Robbie's team was small. Yet the parents came and sat in the same cold, wet stands suffering through the same wind, rain, and chill. They encouraged their team even when the score reached 5-0 in the first half. They applauded the good plays, heartened the team after being scored upon, and went wild for any shot that neared the goal. After the game they roared as their team ran across the field and shouted ""Good game."" They had the same muddy uniforms to wash the next day and the same soggy coats to dry out. If you're a parent, you can't be a fair weather fan. You can't switch off your loyalty if the team isn't doing well and you can't decide that it's too wet or too cold to come watch. But I have to admit that I'm pretty happy that Robbie and Bryce both will be playing college soccer in California. I'm not made of hearty Midwest stock. Give me a wildfire, soot-filled game so long as I can wear shorts and a sleeveless shirt.