The Sounds of the Season


Field_hockey_girlI’m not looking forward to Halloween this year. To be honest, this holiday has always had a bittersweet quality to it. Among other things, for those of us who reside here in the Northeast, there is the knowledge that once October 31st rolls around, there’s little hope that we’ll enjoy another day of Indian summer — we know that winter is, indeed, coming. In exchange for this bad news, we are given some of those gorgeous, clear, crisp days that make even the most cynical among us pause to take note — and there’s almost nothing like the sheer breathtaking beauty in the bursts of color that autumn brings.

This year it has been somewhat difficult to enjoy Mother Nature’s seasonal artwork. I’m reluctant to see October draw to a close for another reason, one that has nothing to do with the weather, one that is more bitter than it is sweet. This year, those last days of October mark the end of my daughter’s high school field hockey career.

As a result, I have found myself paying less attention to autumn’s visual display and more attention to what has long been, for us, the sounds of the season — the echo of the clacking sticks, the shrill of the whistle, the clunking noise the ball makes when a goal is scored, even the buzzer that has, more often than not, heralded yet another defeat. I feel like I’m filing away the sensory observations associated not just with field hockey, but with my only child — its rhythms, its cadences are, in my mind, intertwined with her rhythms, her cadences — so that I can revisit them somewhere down the road.

Unlike other memories that we, as mothers, can pull out of a box — macaroni art work, baby blankets, poorly, yet lovingly, crafted Christmas ornaments — these sounds won’t fit into a plastic bin or a cardboard carton. They’re not the sort of thing that can be pulled from a shelf, touched, or even smelled when we want to be reminded of who our children once were. Auditory memories — less tangible, perhaps, than those of a visual or a tactile variety, but no less important — have a far more ephemeral quality to them.

Will she continue to play this game that she has grown to love so very much? That remains to be seen. Even if she does, it won’t be the same — for either of us. She’s not the same kid who stood in the backfield that September day — a day that feels simultaneously like yesterday and like a million years ago. I remember that day. I recall how she was nervously twirling her stick, how she was “setting” her body, how she was attempting to put on her best “game face”. I not only sensed, I knew, that she was both proud of her place on the team and terrified to fail — her teammates, her coaches, her parents, herself. It’s hard to believe on that long ago afternoon — the one when she surreptitiously scanned the crowd, looking for me — that she was only thirteen years old.

My daughter has come a long way since then in many areas. Her evolution both as a player and as a person is obvious to anyone who has tracked her progress. Yes, she’s become a better player — she’s more adept at the 16-yard hit, more able to help the goalkeeper guard against the shot to the post. She has become, both on and off the playing field, a more confident person. She’s no longer that thirteen-year-old girl who was shaking in her cleats, looking for Mommy, awaiting her chance to get in on the action. She no longer shakes in her cleats (or her flats or her heels). She hardly ever looks for me anymore. She’s a poised young woman who has a bright future. She has decisions to make about college, about hockey, about other important things.

What she’s managed to achieve on the turf has come through hard work, determination, and perseverance. If she can apply those lessons to the rest of her life, she’s going to be just fine. As for me, maybe I’ll steal a ball so that I can take it out and roll it between my fingers when I want to conjure the auditory memories or retrieve a mental picture of that little girl. Surely it will remind me that I had the privilege to play a large part in most of what has, so far, been her life. That I’ll have to sit on the sidelines for the rest of it? I’m fine with that. I’ve grown accustomed to those cold, hard bleacher seats.

photo credit: me

21 thoughts on “The Sounds of the Season

  1. […] posts that I’d like to see get more attention: Why I Get Out of Bed in the Morning The Sounds of the Season A Few of the Reasons That I Am Who I Am Accepting […]

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  2. Well said. Lovely post. Sometimes those auditory memories can bring about more emotional response than the visuals.

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  3. Beautiful post, Jackie. It was bittersweet for me, too, when my kids played their last high school games. It was so hard to say goodbye to that era. You’ve expressed my emotions perfectly.

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    • javaj240 says:

      It is hard to say goodbye, but inevitable. We all get through it one way or the other, though. Thanks so much for reading and for commenting!

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  4. Lovely, touching and poignantly familiar. Will be thinking of you.

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  5. Haralee says:

    How sweet. I did not even know that field hockey was still a sport for girls. I am glad to see your daughter and you getting the most out of this sport!

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    • javaj240 says:

      It is, indeed, still a sport — and a tough one to master, at that. She’s done very well, though. I would have to agree that we’ve certainly made the most of it!

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  6. Lovely. And I definitely miss that I never had a child.

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thank you. Well, these are the “best of times”, that’s for sure. Having a child has, no doubt, been the best thing I’ve ever done, but you’ve certainly accomplished many things in your life. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

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  7. What a beautiful post about the love you feel for your daughter, and the growth you both have found. Bittersweet and tender, you really captured the essence of what our children go through and what parents learn to endure: letting go.

    Powerful words. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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  8. Beautiful, Jackie, and I love the whole idea of sitting on the sidelines. Thanks for taking me back to my daughter’s days of playing softball. We remain our kids’ biggest cheerleaders no matter what they’re playing.

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  9. Lovely piece, Jackie! This last year of high school is a rollercoaster, and you’ve captured it beautifully.

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thank you so much, Karen or Wendy (LOL!) — yes, it’s a rollercoaster, alright. Some days I feel like I need to be strapped in — to a straitjacket. LOL!

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  10. Very nice post, and really captured the way it all comes into focus – not to mention that you have been a caring, supportive parent who can therefore appreciate this passage more than many.

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thanks, Susan… I literally found myself standing outside the stadium recently, relishing the sounds, knowing that for her and for me, this was an ending… but, also, a beginning. I have certainly “been there”… and I have the bleacher sores to prove it, LOL!

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  11. We are right there with you, one of life’s sweetest sounds. Who knew that watching our kids on the field would be such a source of joy. Lovely post!

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thanks, Lisa, Mary Dell, — yes, those sounds are so sweet, but we take them for granted, sometimes, don’t we? Watching our children succeed — at ANYTHING — is a source of joy, it really is. Thanks for reading and for commenting…. I really appreciate it. Your words mean a lot to me — you ladies have set the bar on writing about what it means to us when our children fly out of the nest!

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