I rolled up the last of the soccer socks today, long tubes of white and green, gray at the heels and toes from rubbing against the inside of my son’s cleats. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away, even knowing that he has played his last game, so they are stowed in a bin in his closet, alongside discarded baseball pants.
Today marks the official end of soccer season, with a banquet to look forward to tonight, but Saturday was the last game, a defeat in post-season play, when every game might be your last. My son’s team went down fighting, but unlike the division playoffs, which ended with a trophy, state play moved on without them.
It didn’t hit me until Sunday, when I was driving home from dropping off a donation of soft pretzels at a CYO field where younger soccer players were gathering excitedly, hopping out of their parents’ minivans into the cold mud, that I was no longer a soccer mom myself.
The point was hit home by the radio coincidentally playing Stevie Nicks singing “Landslide,” forcing me to wonder whether I, too, could “handle the seasons of my life.” My son will graduate from high school in the spring, and he will not be playing soccer in college, unless it is intramural. It is time for me to move on, too.
I must confess, I was not a very good soccer mom, at least not in the stereotypical imagining. I did not decorate my minivan with soccer team magnets (the one we own is on my son’s car). I owned only one shirt with the team name, and that was a cast-off of my older daughter, and usually kept hidden under the warm coat I wore zipped up against the cold of fall.
I couldn’t keep the names and numbers of the players straight, relying more on who wore which color shoes (thank goodness the shoes are allowed to be in vivid colors). Therefore, most times, I just cheered vaguely for the mascot.
On the other hand, I didn’t yell at the refs. In fact, I cringed when others did. First of all, I was never able to tell when a call was bad. I still don’t know how to tell when someone is offside. (I am pretty sure that is a term, but I am prepared to be corrected.)
Second, I think everyone is too aggressive and I spend most of the game grimacing and hoping no one gets hurt. (I could never be a football mom.) If I was a ref, I probably would be issuing warnings left and right.
Most importantly, my dad had been a Little League umpire when I was growing up, and I have years of experience of his ability to tune out the crowd and focus on making what he felt was the fairest call, knowing he was not biased for one team or the other, despite what anyone’s parents might have thought. He just loved the game, which he had played through high school and for which he turned down a college scholarship, and he wanted to be a part of it still.
The only claim I have to calling myself a soccer mom is that I signed up to contribute snacks and raffle baskets when I could and even worked the snack bar. I paced the stadium nervously, especially on the days my son was in goal, wanting the win for this team, which had worked so hard and played so selflessly together.
And I was there for my son, to support him in a sport that he enjoyed and in which he found meaning and friendship. That is what moms do, soccer moms, football moms, ballet moms, field hockey moms, the dads too, you name it. Show up and offer support, win or lose.
And if you happen to wash the uniforms and roll the socks, then more power to you. You, too, will know that you can store socks and memories in drawers, but you can’t stop time, for “even children get older, and I’m getting older, too.”
Noel Dolan is a writer in West Chester. firstname.lastname@example.org