Peter and I had an instantaneous attraction when we met 22 years ago, but our relationship really began to take shape in the first few days after we'd realized that attraction. In those brisk fall afternoons and evenings, with classes done for the day, we engaged in an extended conversation about who we were. Families, religions, school experiences, favorite music...I remember those conversations as feverish, a rush to share and compare. And incredulous, as well: everything that one of us offered, the other came up with some parallel. We both loved vacationing at northern lakes. We both, unbelievably, had grandparents with New Brunswick roots--the same town, even! We both had spent childhood winters in cities, and summers in rural places that were not typically touristy. And then we talked about sports.
My affection for sports is from an audience-member distance, and really only goes as far as wondering how the team from New York in any given sport is doing. In this, we differed--Pete had been an enthusiastic athlete for years. He named off the sports he'd played: tennis, golf (my brother played those, I responded), squash (got me there), and hockey--
Hockey. Looking back, this was one of the sharp-focus moments when our coupledom became actual. Turned out that everyone in Pete's family was a rabid hockey fan. Whaddya know, everyone in my family was, too. Many, many nights spent gathered around a (usually black-and-white) television, with the ebbs and swells of crowd noises accompanying the players' ceaseless motions around that little black speck of a puck. Even though I was coolly unconcerned about every other sport...hockey, I took very seriously.
I'll take an indulgent moment to sigh and remember Peter in those days:
from his h.s. yearbook. The sight of him on skates always made, and still makes, my heart swoop.
Anyway. The mutual hockey adoration has been a durable part of our togetherness. Granted, Pete watches 80 times more of it than I do, and he follows teams with that odd statistical insistence that men (and some women, I'm sure) bring to the endeavor. You know, he's cognizant of where each team stands in relation to the others, who's maybe gonna trade someone, who the top scorers are.... Whereas I drift past, sit and watch with him a few minutes, banter about silly player names and bad uniform choices and WHOA that was a good pass, comeoncomeon SHOOT! awwwww. Then off to whatever else I was doing that evening. (Except when the Rangers start getting good. Then I sit down and stay there, and yell just like my mom used to while I root for them.)
Lately we have had the good fortune to befriend season-ticket holders for Alfond Arena, where the University of Maine Black Bears ply their trade. I've always been proud, in the back of my mind, that my home state of choice has such a fantastic collegiate hockey reputation. But in the past few years, we've actually been able to attend some games and see live hockey together for the first time since Bowdoin.
Last night was one of those nights. And we were able to bring our younger kids, Lydia and Desmond. It's rare for us to have quality time with just the two of them, especially so in this year of Zoe's college choices and Willis' singing performances. I found myself in reveries while we sat in the stands, treasuring the echoey sounds of skates and shouts and thudding checks, the slightly misty whiteness of the ice, the mishmash of Mainers in the stands, and the excitement of realizing that I really can tell when a good play is in progress...so that a goal never blindsides me. But also, seeing my children become part of this family continuum pleased me so much. I kept sneaking furtive cell-phone pictures as we watched:
I managed to take pictures when they were aware, too:
I have a fierce sense of pride for the Black Bears now. It's different than what I feel for the pros. It has a regional tinge--I feel like I belong a little more here for knowing about them. There's enormous tradition vibes on the Orono campus, too, and that taps into my genealogical jones. Plus, watching this team is reminiscent of watching Pete play at Bowdoin. I always had this nervy mix of maternal feelings and aggression when he was on the ice. It's powerful.
Last night's game against Merrimack was triumphant: 3-1 Maine, with all three goals scored by a kid from Windham, Matt Duffy. A hat trick. Fifteen minutes before that third goal, we'd bought Lydia a banner in the UMaine swag store between periods, and Des had gotten a baseball cap. He'd been fussing with the cap ever since, wanting it to sit just so on his head. (I know he's emulating his older brother, who's rarely without a cap.) When Duffy's third goal--an empty-netter--sailed in, the usual attendant fan chaos was accompanied by a shower of hats flying out of the stands and skittering on the ice. Des watched, astonished. "When one guy scores three goals, they call it a hat trick," I explained into his ear. He nodded soberly, fussed with his cap, then turned to me. "Should I?" he asked seriously. I could tell he thought it was obligatory. "No!" I yelped. I saw the whew! look pass across his face.
After the game, we finished up some Christmas shopping at Target, and he and Lyd scored Pokemon cards. They opened them in the van, and Des was ecstatic--he'd finally gotten a Mothim. (I'm shrugging, but this was really important to his deck.) "This has been a great day," he said with satisfaction as Pete maneuvered us out of the parking lot and into the late-night blackness of Route 1A.
Didn't take him long to fall asleep. I loved the way his new cap and cards were part of the tableau. It was a great day.