My earliest memories of football involve sweat, panting breaths, and scraped up knees. Growing up, we used to play tag football at our local park.
Every Sunday afternoon, my brothers and I would change out of church clothes, wolf down leftovers, and then I’d pick up the phone. It was one of those Dark Ages, dial ones that plugged into the wall and had a cord. Peering at the address book taped to the refrigerator, I’d type in numbers and ring up all the neighbor kids. My dad would get the pigskin out of the garage, and we’d all head out to our neighborhood park.
I was never any good, but I sure had fun. My dad would lift his arm, fling a pass. I’d run forward, legs churning, trying to beat the older boys who seemed to have some sort of magic dust on their hands when it came to catching footballs.
Sprint, jump, crash, I fell to the ground streaking dirt up the jeans my mom had just washed.
Swooping in, my older brother grabbed the football for his team. “You catch like a girl.”
“You think that’s an insult? Girls are amazing at everything.” I stuck my tongue out at him.
He shucked the football to the neighbor kid who was a runner. That kid was younger than me, but man could he ever run. If he ever passed your scrimmage line, rather than chase after, you just flung yourself on the grass, admitting defeat.
But he hadn’t caught the ball yet. My younger brother lunged forward, both hands extended for a two-hand touch tackle.
The ball veered right, my dad jumped.
Some autumns we played on that small field so hard we dug ruts in the grass and the county landscapers would have to come out and shut down the field until they could plant new seed.
And as soon as they’d re-open the field, we’d be back to football again.
Most of the other kids’ parents didn’t come. Their moms might drop them off, their dads might stay a few minutes and say ‘hi’, their parents might take a walk around the neighborhood while we played. But my dad was always there. Hurt knees, sprained wrists, shoulders made sore by being a weekend warrior with ever growing kids, he did it all.
Now that I’m a parent of a three-year-old little boy, I sometimes think of those Sunday afternoons playing football. To me, a hectic mom whose greatest desire in life is for an hour of peace and quiet, it might be just one Sunday afternoon, an inconveniently loud or rowdy game of pigskin. But to them, the kids that grow in our hearts and homes, it’s their childhood. And I don’t want my son to remember me sitting his childhood out on the bench.
Thanks, Dad, for all the memories.
Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.
What was an activity you loved to do with your mom or dad (or other mentor) growing up? Share some of your memories.