Friday, September 28, 2007


I did not expect my life to be like this. I did not think my Friday nights would be spent at homecoming parades, football games, pizza parties with a dozen kids and a handful of frazzled parents. Every year, though, here I am.

My youngest son's friend's birthday is this weekend and this weekend is homecoming. It's somehow become a tradition that his dad E. and I take the boys to the parade and the game.

The parade starts at the high school immediately after the elementary school lets out, so E. and I have to pick up the kids as soon as class ends. It's a neighborhood school and we know many of the people waiting there with us for the bell. When our group lines up, they laugh at us, shake their heads, wish us luck. I offer my keys to a first grade teacher, tell her she can keep the van if she'll take the kids while I go to the bar.

"Not a chance," she says. "I know these boys."

God forbid one of my children does something the others don't, so I end up with all three of mine, plus another three or four boys seemingly picked at random. We park and walk the last block to the high school.

The parade's not too bad. My oldest immediately ditches us to go find his friends. The other boys line up to watch the band and the fire trucks, and to try to snatch candy thrown by the marchers.

Then it's back to E.'s house for dinner, pizza and pop. Another mom calls asking if she should bring over some Hawaiian for the sugar bong. Hilarious, except the kids are starting to twitch and it's not even game time.

While we're waiting for the delivery guy, the kids go outside to play. All is well until one of them comes in crying. My middle son's hit him in the eye with a football.

I open the door. "Get inside." He stalks by me, sullen and defensive.

"It was an accident," he says.

"It's always an accident. I don't care. Accidents happen when people are careless. Sit down on the couch and wait for dinner." We glare at each other for a few seconds, then I go over and tend to the injured kid. Actually, E.'s wife tends to him while I act like a buffoon as a way to make him forget about it. It doesn't seem to work. In fact, it appears to creep him out.

I finally forgive my kid. Everyone finishes eating and we head back to the high school. Again, my oldest abandons us as quickly as possible. He's going to the homecoming dance tomorrow night with a group of friends and is terrified I'll do something to embarrass him. Go figure.

The rest of us find our seats. At least E. and I do. It's a perfect evening for football, clear and crisp. By game time, the sun is setting and the lights are coming on. The team comes out, the band plays the national anthem, and the crowd settles in.

We see people we know, friends, city council members, school board members, the superintendent. We talk, catch up, ask how the school year's going, about families, about the team's chances tonight. The stands are full of people who are hoping for a win, but for most of us, this is really a chance to show our students and each other that community matters.

It's not utopia, of course. There are drugs and crime and problems here, like everywhere. The mayor and I spend half an hour discussing the importance of community policing, getting the officers out of their cars and into the schools and businesses. I talk to people who have divorced, been arrested, had deaths in the family since last year's game. Still, it's a nice night and those things don't seem as pressing for a few hours.

While we're talking, the children cluster along the fence lining the field shouting at the best friend of E.'s oldest son. He's on the team this year and he hears his name, turns, and nods.

Tonight turned out to be his. Eighty or ninety yards rushing, a touchdown, and a heads-up play, grabbing a pass that deflected off one of his teammates. Our school wins, the first victory of the season and he's the hero. He's a good kid, funny and modest, and it's nice to see him do well.

After the game, it's back to E.'s house for cake and presents. The adults have a glass of wine, it gets late, and people start to leave. My son's sleeping over so I stay a little later, watch some television, finally get up and get home.

I did not expect my life to be like this. I did not think my Friday nights would be spent at homecoming parades, football games, pizza parties with a dozen kids and a handful of frazzled parents. Every year, though, here I am.


Adorable Girlfriend said...

This is why you be like AG: hold off on marriage for as long as possible. i.e. Wait until AG can not have children and then go drinking 24/7.

It works, baby!

Anonymous said...

so wholesomely american!

the møøses would be proud!