Working as a sportswriter, as I did in the first few years of my journalism career, I expected to attend my fair share of high school football contests. But I always assumed I’d enjoy the relative comfort of the press box, not out in the elements.
That all began to change about 10 years ago, when I met my girlfriend and her daughter. First it was cheerleading, in high school, it’s been band.
I’m sure, like anyone with kids on the field during football season, the weather doesn’t bother me like it would if I were simply working the game. Well, much. The cold can be penetrating, the wind brutal. I have a few miserable memories of rain, but we’ve been lucky the last few years, and the kid on the field tends to make you forget all of that.
Funny thing. Just when you get accustomed to it, it’s over. And I’ll miss it.
I’ll miss watching the field show and rooting for a team of rural underdogs who don't have the depth to outlast the city schools. I’ll miss the concession stand food on a Friday night. But most of all, I’ll miss high school. For, in a couple of weeks, not only does the season begin, so will a year of “last times.”
By now, I know from experience the weeks race by from the end of August to November. Packed in there will be senior nights and homecoming, and before you know it, you’re making Thanksgiving plans and chopping down a Christmas tree.
Things don’t slow down in the new year, either. Musicals and prom and suddenly, graduation. Each school event will be the last one we attend. This is the last year to hold on to those moments, because they’ll never come again.
Looking back through the last 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of watching an amazing kid grow into equally amazing young woman. Talented, whip smart, able to keep up with my offbeat sense of humor and hold her own.
I know the future holds joys and surprises I can’t yet comprehend. But, while college is a new world, full of things we’ve yet to explore, it also will be different. It’ll be her world. She’ll be establishing her own life.
I suppose I’ve looked forward to these moments for so long, I’m not ready for them to be over. That’s selfish, I know. But when you never planned to have children, and life gives you an unexpected gift, I can only hope a little selfishness is excusable.
Odds are, this won’t be the last year I attend a high school football game, but when I do, it’ll just be a game. I’ll be back in the press box, or roaming the sidelines with a camera.
So, this time around, it won’t be business as usual. I can already feel the warm, late summer night. I can smell the French fries. I can feel the hard metal bleacher through the two padded seat cushions. And, even though it is currently humid and in the 80s, I can even feel the bite the first chilly fall breeze and those November nights.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m going to complain about the miles. I’m certainly going to complain about the weather. I’m going to regret that walking taco.
But, I can’t wait for the season to start.
I just don’t want it to end.