For the last few weeks, Allyson's been switching off between her ballet slippers and her soccer cleats. I love that! She's a girly girl AND a tough little athlete.
The first couple of soccer practices and games were about as hopeless as we expected as she's playing on a three- and four-year-old coed team, and this is the first year for all but one of them. One little boy was a powerful kicker, but had no concept of direction; he just kicked the ball along its current trajectory--usually either out of bounds or into his own team's goal. Other kids, including Allyson, just turned around in slow circles studying the clouds, or perhaps scrutinizing a lady bug on a blade of grass. Some of the kids even lay on the ground squirming or stretching lazily.
We were expecting more of the same last Saturday. I drove in after a meeting, arriving 20 minutes late, frazzled and grouchy from battling the soccer traffic. Just 30 minutes prior to that I'd been rude to Ethan when he called my cell phone during the meeting--even though I hadn't warned him that I'd be tied up. So I was wallowing in mommy guilt as I picked my way across the parking lot. I was so intent on composing my apology that I narrowly missed being run over by a golf cart; I had to leap up onto the curb, and the guy never even saw me.
I greeted Bill with a kiss and sank onto the grass just as the second quarter was ending. "How's it going?" I asked.
"About like it usually does, only worse. The other team has a couple of superstars who really know what they're doing--see?" He pointed at number 2, a tall boy who effortlessly carried the ball all the way down the field and kicked it into our goal. "That's how the whole game's been going. I think they're winning 12 to 0, give or take a few."
Allyson raced over and plopped in my lap when the whistle blew. "Mommy, you're here!" She showered me with kisses while Bill regaled her with instructions.
"Watch the ball," he admonished. "Just run up and take the ball. And then run, run kick! All the way down to THAT goal. Just like when we practice in the backyard. Can you do that?"
Allyson nodded distractedly as she headed back out on the field. Our kids milled around aimlessly while they waited for the kick, half of them (including Allyson) with their backs to the ball. I noted with relief that number 2 was on the sidelines, but that made no difference because number 6 was there to take his place. Twice in a row she took the ball and kicked it purposefully to the goal.
The parents on the other side cheered wildly, as if each goal was the game-winning goal in overtime. Bill and I exchanged sour glances. "You'd think they could tone it down a little," I whispered, shifting on the damp ground and worrying that I was getting grass stains on my favorite jeans. "Of course, if it was our daughter, you know there's no way we wouldn't cheer for her," I acknowledged.
Just then, number 2 came back out and immediately scored a goal. A man on the other side of the field shouted, "Way to make sure! I like that!" My blood pressure shot up a couple of notches. The score--supposing they actually kept score--was now around 15 to 0! I started to say something uncharitable, but then I caught myself because I didn't want to set a bad example for Allyson, who was grinning cheerfully. "Are we winning?" she asked when she came over for a drink.
"You're all playing well and having a good time," I said.
As the last quarter started, I was counting the minutes until we could go home. The other team probably scored a couple more goals, but I scarcely noticed. I had gone to my happy place. I pulled myself back to attention, though, when Allyson kicked the ball from the center line.
"Great kick!" I hollered. "Kick it again. Kick it! Kick it!" I watched in utter amazement as she deliberately kicked it all the way to the goal--and IN!" I was on my feet in an instant. "Woo hoo!" I screamed. "Yay, Allyson!" I could hear Bill hollering from the other end of the field. Suddenly it didn't matter that we were losing 17 to 1. Our daughter had scored her first goal, and I was now absolutely exhilarated.
Allyson trotted back to the center line, throwing a shy smile over her shoulder. Number 6, the talented (and cute) little girl on the other team, had the ball and was making a beeline for our goal, but Allyson ran up beside her and stopped the ball, then carefully turned it around. "Yes, Allyson!" I screamed, on my feet again. "Kick it! Kick it!" And she did. Right into the goal. I clapped until my hands hurt, and I grinned when I heard the other parents say, "Wow, Allyson's turning into a little superstar, isn't she?"
Yep, that's my girl! I thought, but I tried to keep a humble face. Allyson didn't bother trying to be humble at all. She jogged by the sidelines, waving to her adoring fans. "I got my first scores!" she exulted. "Those were my first scores!"
The game ended a few minutes after that, and we headed to the ice cream store. Bill had promised her each game that we'd go out for ice cream if she made a goal, and now we got to make good on that promise. Even I ate some, despite my usual ban on sweets.
Back at home, she asked if we could take some pictures to celebrate the goal. "We'll take one with me looking back, like this," she instructed. "That way they can see my number 5."
A couple hours later, I heard her singing on the stairs. "I goed and I goed and I ran so fast! And I got two scores, two scores!" she sang.
"Yes, you did!" I called from the kitchen.
"Now cheer and clap for me," she said, and I did. "No, louder!" she ordered.
"You mean like I cheered at the game?"
"No, even louder!"
"It's not possible to cheer any louder than that," I explained. And I had the sore throat to prove it.