People just are who they are, and today, I was someone who did not want to go.
Soccer was his idea not mine–not to mention I had a three foot stack of orders I needed to invoice and get to shipping before the Fedex guy arrived at 4pm! I did not want to go. But I did. Grudgingly.
Juan played as a child, and loved it. He wanted our kids to love it too.
At the time, Lauren had been dancing on team, and Niko was a basketball player for the jr Lakers. Kids were happy. But they were only seven, and we were still open to trying new things. My schedule was jammed solid with drum lessons, piano lessons, brownies, and cub scouts already; soccer would have to be Daddy’s thing.
As it turned out, our son was pretty good. Our daughter? Ha!
Can’t remember the position they assigned her, but she was down the field near the goalie. Do recall her Daddy was excited though! Even took her aside before the first game and gave her some pointers (I took the cutest picture of them).
So the ref blows the whistle and the little black and white ball goes flying down the field-fast, coming right at her! Proud daddy looks over to his baby girl (who he is sure is going to be a natural!) and begins to yell, “Block it Lauren!” when he stops up suddenly, and looks at me (completely dumfounded), “What is she doing?!”
A smile spread across my face as I took in my baby girl doing a perfect pirouette, “She’s dancing.”
and then…”She’s a dancer.” People are who they are.
Now Niko, he was a natural! First time he ever played, our little athlete made every goal that season, except for three! Playing both offense and defense, he left the other kids in his dust. The three times our team lost: we were out of town on vacation for one, he was sick for another, and the third game, I had to pull him out in the first quarter; his coughing and wheezing were dragging him down.
I waited to see if the coach would step in that day out of concern, but he never said a word. In fact, he never acknowledged my boy the entire season except to direct him, “You’re in this quarter, or you’re sitting this one out.”
Our kid, who happily gave his all every single game, never got to take home the MVP beany ball either, but every other player on the team did. One mom even remarked about it, but the coach ignored her. Niko continued to play his heart out, because that is who he is, and I never said a word. By the end of our ten weeks or so with the devils though, I hated that coach.
He wanted his son to be the soccer star, and when that didn’t pan out… I just reminded my son, people are who they are.
As you can imagine though, I was not happy about having to fill in that day when work pulled dad away from taking our boy to practice. I was ticked actually. But, I took a deep breath, switched gears, and focused on getting our kid to the field.
“Juan didn’t come?!”
I jumped! She startled me. Watching Niko whiz down that stretch of green grass with the ball ricochetting between his feet, I forgot there were others present.
My head whipped to my left, and my eyes settled on a pretty face. I kinda remembered her from last weeks game. Oh right, team mom!
We had spoken before; she stopped me to ask for our home address; needed to send out the Krispy Kreme invites for the teams “kick off ” party. Excitement exuded from her; we were all getting together outside of the game and she couldn’t wait!
It was only a flash, but right then I recalled how her pretty face fell that day after my suggestion, “Oh no, save your stamps and just hand out the flyers at the next game.” I could see this team mom didn’t care for my money saving solution, so I gave her our address, and went over and watched the game.
She did introduce herself but for the life of me…
Kneeling down now next to my lawn chair, her hand on my arm rest, and looking more than disappointed, she implored, “Where’s Juan?”
Um, I had to think. “Oh, he had to work. So I brought Niko myself.”
Her pretty face began to weep. Like someone had flipped a switch. I placed my hand over hers, and watched as genuine tears ran down her perfect cheeks, “Honey, are you okay?”
Through quiet, restrained sobs, and backward glances at her husband standing several yards away, she shared… “I watch your husband with your son. He is such a great dad. He’s passionate and involved and…” More tears. “He reminds me of my dad–he was just like that! He died two years ago.” I could see her pain deepen and her body began to shake. Reaching out, I took her in my arms.
I glanced over her shoulder at the man she was married to; the man who was not like her father, not like my son’s father. With one glance, I believed her; her man had checked out long ago. I felt sorry for all of them.
As the season progressed, her attention and feelings for my man deepened and the emails and the long glances she shot down the field got more frequent. We skipped the end of season party and left that sport altogether too, but I did ask him , “You still hear from your soccer stalker?” It wasn’t said in jest, it was a legitimate concern.
“What do you say to her?”
“I’ve never responded. I’ve never even talked to her, except that time she asked me for our address, and I told her to ask you. ”
“But she keeps sending you messages asking to get the boys together?”
He nodded, then shrugging it off, “Hey, I can’t help it if she digs me!” I rolled my eyes at him, but I knew she was serious. She was stalking him.
I know she drove past our house at night too. I could feel her. I prayed she would find peace, and love, and strong arms to hold her.
Then I let it go.
Eventually the emails stopped. I did see her at the market here in town, and her demeanor was exactly the same: sad but keeping busy with the details of daily life. We never made eye contact but I noticed there was a new baby in the stroller. A new baby to love. I smiled and continued shopping.
Here’s the thing: team mom knew what she was doing was wrong, but I could see her pain, and often times when the ache gets too much we are drawn to those who are similar to the ones who brought us comfort in the past. She missed her dad…she wanted him back, and sometimes, sometimes that makes us do things and say things that seem unfair. Believe it or not, I could relate.
I knew personally, people are who they are.
Finals were over. Freshman year of college was over. Thank God!
My boyfriend and I almost ran to the parking lot. Burger King and the beach were on the horizon! Thought about throwing my textbooks in the trash on the way out–in fact, I almost chucked them! Then I remembered I needed to sell them back to pay for next semester’s books in the fall, so I refrained. Always the pragmatic one.
We could smell the Whoppers broiling from the Cypress College parking lot, and started to salivate as we exited the campus and rounded the corner of Valley View and Lincoln Avenues.
“Man, I starving!” “Me too!” We were famished and couldn’t get to the fast food joint fast enough.
I was turning nineteen in August, so she must have just turned 9 in May. He didn’t see her, but I did. I screamed and lunged forward, bracing myself with my hands on the dashboard, as my books flew off my lap and onto the floor of the car.
I heard my voice yell, “Look out!” but he said he only heard a scream as he slammed on the brakes.
She was blonde and had a doll like face. And we almost killed her.
It was like a standoff. That little girl, stunned, staring at me; us staring in shock back at her. I was certain we had hit her. Then, like the flip of a switch she scampered off across the street into the strip mall. She was gone.
“Where’d she come from?!” We were turning into the restaurant parking lot and he was still in disbelief. “Turn around.” My voice was raspy but I meant it. His head whipped around, “What?” “Why?”
“That was my sister. I want to make sure she is okay.”
This boyfriend knew I had a crazy mixed up family, but he thought he had met all of them by now. Guess what? There was more to the story.
I had seen Tanya and Jason too, at McDonalds, with my mother. (That other time, they came through drive thru, they were with our dad.) They hadn’t recognized me, any of them, either time though and so I felt safe as I watched my mother order that day.
My eyes took in everything about her. Her feet were wearing sandals; my eyes told me I had my mother’s feet. The every day knowledge most take for granted, some of us can only hope to one day learn. I had her hands too (I thought so). Comforting confirmation.
The sweet blonde girl and the dark haired cute little boy were well behaved. After a clean sweep of my family, I made a clean sweep of the lobby picking up the dirty plastic trays, and walked right past my them all–and stayed in back cleaning them-until they left.
It had been a few years since the last sighting, and kids change a lot, but I knew it was her; I was positive it was my baby sister.
I asked my boyfriend again to please turn around and he obliged.
We parked in front of the liquor store. And waited. The little girl, with the doll like face had gone into the arcade.
“How do you know it was her?”
I just know.
Then, I asked him to do something unfair, “Don’t scare her, but can you go in and see if she’s okay? Make sure we didn’t harm her? Ask her what her name is if you can, but don’t frighten her!” He was intrigued (I get that a lot when I share my stories).
The little girl was playing pin ball when he asked and she nodded yes; she was okay and her name was Tanya.
I knew it!
Soon, a little boy joined her. Then, their mother came across the street too. Only she didn’t go into the arcade; she walked right past us, as close to the car as Tanya had been, and into the store.
And I sat and watched. I took my turn at stalking.
The woman reached out for the boy’s hand and guided him up and down the aisles. She was carefree, and on a mission; there was no evidence she had been informed her youngest daughter, only minutes before, had almost been run over by her oldest daughter.
Sitting next to me my partner in crime whispered, almost reverently, “Man, you have her body.”
We both lowered the visors and watched as all three crossed back over Lincoln Avenue to the apartments right there. I let out a deep sigh: for the first time in a solid decade, I knew where my parents lived–and try as I might, I wanted to know more.
It wasn’t often, maybe three or four times over the next two years, but it did happen; I found my car taking the the long way home after school, hoping to see them. But I never did. Not once. My efforts were in vain. I lost them as soon as I had found them. Just as well.
I could not have foreseen running into them (literally) that day. It was sudden and terrifying. Even as I write this, my heart is racing in my chest at the memory. I was given a split second to make a lifetime decision. I left instead. I had to live with that.
I know it was wrong to sit and watch them that day, without making our presence known. But I couldn’t speak. I remember feeling frozen, between wanting them in my life, and not being able to fit them in my life–a desperate kind of fascination that was not functional in any way. And fate settled the dispute.
Heres the thing: I knew what I was doing was wrong. But all that pain came rushing back, and often times when the pain gets too much we are drawn to the ones who brought us comfort in the past. I missed my mom, and I wanted her back, and sometimes, sometimes that makes us do things and say things that seem unfair. I’m sure there are others who can relate.
Maybe that’s why I gave comfort and grace to the woman who came later in my life; the one who did some stalking of her own. Because, in the end, we all have times we’d rather forget, times we wished we’d acted differently. Because, people are who people are, and we’re all a lot more alike than we’d care to admit.