ON EMPTY STADIUMS AND AWKWARD HUGS – #JusJoJan

Maybe it’s the curfew imposed on Quebec yesterday that has me pondering again on the pandemic. This time it’s the pangs of loss that wash over me for the most unexpected – and sometimes silly – reasons that are making me sit up and take notice. I’m talking about the little background things we take so much for granted that we only realize the colour they add to our lives when they’re gone.

EMPTY STADIUMS:

Ben is grateful that football and other live sports are back on the air. I’m not a die-hard sports fan but I watch the occasional hockey game and I never miss the Super Bowl (or at least I hang in there until the half-time show). But I get a lump in my throat when I see games being played against a landscape of row upon row of empty stadium seats. Isn’t that silly? I miss the crowds in the stands wearing caps or holding cheesy rubber hands with their team logos. I miss the cheers – and the boos. I even miss the pan to the Jumbotron with goofy fans hamming it up for the camera.  Some day we will get back to full stadiums.

AWKWARD HUGS

We’re all looking forward to the day we can hold on tightly to our loved ones for as long as we want. But what about hugs from people who, whether they know you well or are just a passing acquaintance, greet you with open arms? As an introvert who reserves hugs to those in my  close circle, I always found this uncomfortable.

I could feel my apprehension rise and my insides get twisted in knots when someone closed in on me, arms wide open for a hug. For a brief moment, my impulse was to back away but then reason prevailed and I surrendered. Now I wonder whether this ingrained reaction will have changed when we finally do get back to normal. Because someday we will get back to hugs, both welcome and less welcome.

Right now, I see this as the infamous darkest hour before dawn. In my mind, at least, that means dawn is just a figurative hour away. When the second-hand ticks past the 60th second in this dark hour, the virus, quarantine and curfews will be a thing of the past. Then the sky’s the limit when it comes to how many ways we can appreciate both the big and little things in life.

Written for Linda G. Hill’s Just Jot It January for Day 10 – cheese and Day 9:  the sky’s the limit) and Day 8:  twisted.

Trick or Treat Recollections

Trying to stay patient weeks before

While shopping with the kids for costumes

Only to get home and my daughter wails,

“But I wanted to be a pirate!”

“You’re a girl,” answers my son,

Dressed in his pirate costume.

“ You can’t be a pirate.”

“She can be a pirate,” I reply.

“But this year she chose to be a skeleton.”

Buying enough candy for the neighbourhood kids.

Turning a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern

With a candle in its gutted centre

Lighting up its grin.

Rushing home after work for a quick dinner.

Arguments about warm clothes under costumes.

Walking through the darkened streets

Filled with witches, goblins and monsters.

Coming home with kids on a sugar high

Sorting candy, then getting them off to bed

Before crashing on the couch to watch TV

With one mini candy bar from each child.

Gawd, I miss it!

Sometimes the acorn does fall far from the tree

FLASHBACK – FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL:  PART 1
(See part 2 below)

“But I don’t KNOW anything!” I wailed to my mother. We were shopping for school supplies for my first day of school and this had been an ongoing complaint all summer-long. There was a new desperation to my voice as the long days of summer days grew shorter and September quickly approached.  She sighed, a sure sign that her patience was wearing thin. “But that’s why you go to school – to learn things. Besides, you already know a lot of things,” she said as she turned over a purple pencil case to see the price tag.  I saw her glance at me from the corner of her eye as she waited for me to answer.

I took a moment to picture myself in a classroom, raising the top of my desk to see the purple pencil case inside.  It was full of bright marigold-coloured HB pencils with bubble-gum pink eraser tips.  But I’d never use them, because …  well, BECAUSE I COULDN’T WRITE. I imagined books neatly lined up on the inside of the desk. Books I’d never open because … well, BECAUSE I COULDN’T READ.  And I imagined all the kids around me with hands eagerly raised, hoping the teacher would call on them to answer a question I hadn’t even heard because I was paralyzed with fear.

I knew my mother was hoping for a different answer than the one I’d given her all summer. Finally I looked her in the eye and without flinching, said, “No, I don’t. I don’t know anything.”

I went to school, of course, but I didn’t take to it right away.  Like so many kids before me, though, I adjusted, made friends and learned to like it.  Years later, my son faced the same day with a completely different outlook. Sometimes the acorn does fall far from the tree.

FAST FORWARD TO  1989 : FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL – PART 2:

My little man’s first day of kindergarten was finally here.  The older kids had gone back to school the day before, and Erik had stared out the window wistfully as he watched them walk to the bus stop. Now it was his turn and he couldn’t wait. He was so different from me!

Today was the day he would ride the school bus with all the other kids. As we walked to the corner, he ran ahead of me shouting out to the other children, “Wait for me!”  I watched him and thought he looked so handsome in his navy chinos, pin striped shirt, cute suspenders and brand new sneakers.  His hair was slicked back with a touch of gel and his eyes sparkled with the excitement of this new adventure. Too much excitement.

When we got to the bus stop, Erik clambered up to stand on the wooden bench on the sidewalk. “Erik, get down please,” I said. “People sit on that bench and they don’t want to have sneaker marks on their clothes.”  Just then he lost his footing and went tumbling to the cement sidewalk.  At almost the same moment, the big yellow bus turned the corner and rumbled toward us. Erik was more startled than hurt but big, fat tears rolled down his cheeks. Quickly, I pulled a tissue from my pocket to wipe his cheeks and try to soothe him.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way!  I didn’t want to watch him get on the bus for the first time with tears in his eyes.  A lump formed in my throat and tears threatened to well up in my own eyes, but I forced them back. The bus pulled up, its door folded open and the kids started to get on. Erik climbed up the steps and turned back to look at me. My heart stopped. I was sure he wanted to get off and go back home with me. But then he smiled, waved excitedly and went to find a seat. His tears were already gone and forgotten, but as I walked home, mine left salty tracks on my cheeks.