My Thanksgiving turkey was dry this year, but that’s not what anyone will remember about the day.
It started when I woke up feeling emotional. Thanksgiving was going to be another “last time” for my football playing children and the teammates they have traveled with, some since kindergarten. Win or lose, it was to be the last Thanksgiving game, the last football game in a 13-year school journey.
This one was a highlight. Football has helped them focus, mature into young men, teammates and members of a community. But, emotion aside, there was still a game to play and a turkey to cook without me there to frequently baste.
I bought a bird big enough put in before the game. I wanted the cook time to exceed the game time. I abandoned Grandma Bertha’s tried and true technique for a ”cook in a bag” system that required no basting.
I asked a neighbor to call the fire department if she noticed my house burning down and I went to the game. I got there for the pregame formalities and held my breath.
As anyone who was there knows, it was enjoyable from the start. The weather was perfect and Swampscott, unexpectedly, led the entire way. There was a caution in the stands. No one wanted to whoop until the end. Then, euphoria!
As parents, we fret about the amount of time given to sports and activities when so much has to be done. Forgive a parent for thinking about things other than football, but it is also a time when good grades are important, when standardized tests need to be taken, when college applications need to be in.
Yet, parents want to balance the drudgery with fun. We want to nurture the things that help our children form memories that will last through their lives. We want them to remember this wonderful time for the great things that happened to them. We want don’t want anyone’s memory to be of studying for SATs but of friends, brotherhood and belonging.
There are times when football can drive a parent crazy. On top of the practices and the intensity of the game, there team dinners – official and unofficial; crazy haircuts, weird superstitions about facial hair, smelly clothes, pregame routines and the time consuming fantasy leagues. It is hard to get anything else done.
In the last few weeks, two things happened that had an impact on me. I went to a shiva where a man in his 70’s saw my children’s football jackets and reminisced, in stark detail, about his days on the Chelsea High School team and some of the thrashings they received by Everett. A week later, I interviewed a successful business man about his induction into the Marblehead High School Football Hall of Fame. He told me how all his success flowed from lessons learned on the gridiron 50 years ago. Specifically, he recalled the Thanksgiving rivalry between Swampscott and Marblehead and his role in winning the game.
There are no words for the euphoria of yesterday. Long after people forget the dry white meat on my turkey – perhaps they have already forgotten – they will remember the feeling of winning an unexpected Thanksgiving game with a team of brothers as a capstone of high school. Perhaps, whatever they learned, whatever they remember, will inform their next steps for a good long time.