Field Day

emmagretelbill

It has always been the field at the bottom of our neighborhood, the backyard of the community pool. Earliest memory finds us there with baby William at his first Easter, eight months old and unable to walk and sitting in the sand that is the volleyball court. We were late for the egg hunt, but really, he wouldn’t have been able to hunt for eggs yet anyway.

Soon enough it was the field where he first played soccer, and Everett and Emma after him. Once, on the sidelines of a friend’s game, little Everett accidentally scratched Will’s eye, and we ended up spending a good portion of the afternoon in the emergency room.

And once, distracted by the action of six-year-old William’s game, Bill and I both were surprised to find the game stopped by the cry, “There’s a baby on the field!” and one of us (both?) went hurrying out to retrieve our toddling daughter.

At age four, little William came crying toward us. He didn’t like the game. He didn’t want to play anymore. I stood with infant, stroller and toddler and wondered what to do, but Bill made an early show of fatherly wisdom that we still talk about today:

“You don’t have to play,” he told our teary boy, “but first I want you to go back out on the field and kick the ball one more time. Just once more.”

William re-entered the game and kicked the ball once, twice, lots of times. And he played soccer forever after.

Our days of sitting sideline on that field are long over now. Each of the children graduated to different sports or different fields or both, and now that field serves only as backdrop to the pool. Occasionally I see parents like we once were toting bags and chairs down the hill, their children racing ahead of them. We ourselves haven’t been down on that field in I don’t know how long. We have no reason to go.

But it’s funny how I know that field and how it’s divided up for games. There is where I sat with my in-laws, there where baby Emma played in the grass during practice. There where Will sustained the eye injury, and where his father encouraged him back onto the field.

***

We pulled into the driveway this afternoon to see our kids all leaving the house. They were dressed for playing. “We’re going down to the field to play soccer with Nathan and Katherine. You come too!” they said.

It was 82 degrees and the sky had only scattered clouds. We changed our clothes, we grabbed some blankets. I brought the novel I’m currently reading.

And of course we took the dog.

***

The days around here are full and normal. All five of us aren’t always home for dinner; people come and go based on class, meetings, work, friends. But I am consistently aware of two realities:

  1. we are on borrowed time and
  2. this isn’t going to last.

By the end of the coming summer, Will will be married and Everett off on his gap year or in college.

Everything will be different so soon. Which is fine and good and the normal, healthy course of things.

But what I’ve decided in these weeks and months of “last times” is to *not* pressure the family to make something of it–to plan trips and getaways and special events. Instead, I’ve just decided to let it come and enjoy it.

It’s been working out nicely.

kidsplay

***

This afternoon, in glorious 80-degree, sun-soaked winter light, I tossed a Frisbee with my dog and family. I watched my kids play soccer and walk handstands across the field. I lay on a blanket next to my husband and listened for the umpteenth time to his recent playlist, which includes all kinds of things I would never hear if it weren’t for him, plus the occasional number from Hamilton.

I watched our dog make friends with a bear (okay, it was a dog, but it was hard to tell) named Gus, and I watched my husband make our dog a drinking bowl out of a Frisbee.

I lay on my back and read my book. I lay on my back and watched hawks make wide circles in blue sky. I lay on my stomach and sang harmonies to Bill’s playlist and realized that I actually can read something as gorgeous and complex as Wolf Hall while enjoying Mood Robot. 

I closed my eyes and felt the sun soak through my clothes. I listened to the sounds of my grown and near-grown children play soccer with their friends. I watched their young, strong, powerful bodies run across the field. And later I discussed some of the merits of Wolf Hall with Nathan and Katherine, who asked me to read them a sample. Which, of course, I did.

kidsplay2

***

The field at the bottom of our neighborhood is where my children learned to play soccer. It’s where baby Everett gave little William an eye-scratch and where Emma got a soccer trophy (I remember how badly she wanted one).

But today, if you were to come down to the field with me, I would show you where our grown-up children played and where I played with them, where the soccer goals were and where Will did his handstands.

Where our blankets lay and I used my purse as a pillow and read a book or didn’t on a February afternoon.

It was right there. I remember.

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