Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Football Son

(I wrote this five years ago, but it pretty much resonates with every step my son takes toward adulthood)

My son. My smiling little “bubba-baby-bunny-boy,” who molded to my neck like warm fragrant bread dough as an infant; my tenderhearted boy who always tells me out loud in public that he loves me (even in front of his friends,) is playing… “Junior Midget Football.”

Open to as many formative life experiences as he can handle, I didn’t throw the force of motherly will against it. Full on, tackle football. Why did I approve this clashingly savage, bloody, testosterone fest rite of passage? Why did I allow the potential awakening in my 11 year old son of the harder, lesser angels of our nature?

Perhaps his hours of Xbox paralysis combined with slush-brained TV broadcast flotsam watching pushed me into a compromise to which my motherly instincts shouted “NO.” Perhaps it was that every man in my family possesses that fervent puppy-eyed desire to live vicariously through our offspring on the field of play, the holy gridiron. Perhaps I had practical visions of a college sports scholarship, but would that justify what was to come? I physically trembled at the notion.

When he came home in his full defensive linebacker regalia, helmet, pads and mouth guard, and knelt in a football pose for a photo in the front yard, I was awash in emotion. He was a grass-stained gladiator of my own flesh, a warrior of Spartan silhouette, and every bit as intimidating.

He was huge!

My son was going to hit and be hit hard by the gladiator sons of other mothers.

And the league name of “midget” is a cruel misrepresentation. Bruises in varying degrees of healing, colored burgundy, yellow, green, spotted his arms and chin in shapes like thunder clouds. Someone kneed, elbowed or drove his helmet into my son’s body with force and purpose. And my son had done the same, right back at ‘em with more force and purpose in an escalating process called conditioning. Star and birdies have skidded and tweeted in circles around his head, but he got back up to be knocked down again. He has eaten turf and has provided a turf lunch on a platter with garnish to his adversaries. All badges of honor to him.

The wolf mother in me howled in protest, but only a blur of tears gave hint to how I felt.

In a nanosecond, my brain rocketed to the future when he will be stretching thinner and thinner the silver cord that links mother and son together. I saw him waving goodbye as he enters the arena of higher education. I saw him departing as a patriot defending our country.

Cord stretched thinner. Gossamer.

I saw him marrying a girl, competing in business. Cord near invisible but intact.

I saw him taking the punishing hits and tackles of an American Man’s life in the name of God, family, country and justice…And getting back up again with a cockeyed grin. I saw all this in one prescient maternal flash that shook me.

A grubby bruised yet gentle defensive back hand brushed away the tears. He gathered me up in a rib-crunching hug.

“I love you Mom,” he said.

Brilliant silver cord links us, stretched to infinity. My son forever

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