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Precious

UnknownI had a really bad night sleep.

It started off great but by 3:17am it just went down hill. I still don’t know why my cats have to choose the floor by the foot of the bed in the dead of the night to huck up a fur ball. Jeff barely acknowledge the inside out retching.  I didn’t.  My mind swirled with images of Jeff stepping out of bed at zero dark thirty and into a pile of furry puke so I grabbed my flashlight and the carpet cleaner and got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed that carpet clean.  At 3:19am.

We don’t say I love you with cards and flowers and chocolates at the Barclay house. We say I love you by scrubbing cat vomit off the carpet at 3:19am so the other won’t step in it in the morning.

So I climbed back into bed, ode du Spot Shot replacing the essence of calming lavender.  It took about 30 minutes to bring myself back to my calm place and right when I was ready to plunge over the edge into Dreamland our cat hucked up another fur ball. In the hallway. I woke up just enough to calculate the sound of the heaving in relation to my pillow and deduced that it was out of Jeff’s morning ramble to the kitchen so I rolled over and muttered to my pillow, “Screw it.”

I was pretty much back to a sound sleep when our phone rang, at 5 flippin’ 52am.   Who calls at 5:52am?  Well, I’ll tell you, I didn’t give that person a chance to identify themselves because I was still smelling like Spot Shot. He sounded nice though, at least his stuttered words between my DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS? rhetorical rants did.

After that I laid my head back down on the pillow and looked up at the ceiling and mumbled in defeat, “I’m not going back to sleep.”  But I did!  Until Jeff came out of the bathroom in the dark and in order to avoid the site of the cat vomit he knew was there although chose not to acknowledge at 30 minutes past 3:19am, rammed into the wall and yelled out a single word expletive. I had no words. I just laid there in bed and laughed while Jeff limped down the hall.

So, I’m going on with my morning.  Doing some work.  Getting stuff done on minimal sleep when the phone rang.  It was the same number from this morning.  This was my chance to tell whoever called at 5:52am that was not cool.  I picked up the phone loaded and didn’t let them get a word in edgewise before I hung up, satisfied I had won the battle. Two minutes later, the phone rang again. It was that number!  I picked it up and firmly told them, “Take me off your call list!” and hung up. Then the curious part got to me.  Who was calling me?  I went to my phone and pressed the Caller ID button and got that number.  I dialed it on my cell phone and as I was waiting for someone to answer, my phone rang again.  It was them!  Like a well calculated Civil War battle my flanks had been surrounded.  For a brief second I was in shock at this assault but quickly regained my composure when I answered and then immediately slam down the landline phone with the incoming call as my cell phone call was picked up on the other end.

“Teleflora….”

Teleflora?  Flowers? What?

I explained to the young lady on the other end there must be a mistake, I have no idea why they would be calling me so much.

Her response? “It is in regards to the promotion …” and as hard as she tried to complete her sentence I shut her down.

“This is a mistake. Just stop calling.”

Because you see, this branch of the Barclay tree doesn’t say I love you with cards and flowers and chocolates.

Satisfied that in the end, I won this tireless battle, I sat back down at my computer and started working again when the phone rang.  Again. Teleflora!  After four times of going all attack mode on them I thought, I’ve got to kill them with kindness or this is never going to end.

So I answered, with probably a slight hint of defeat in my voice, “Hello.”

The voice on the other side was firm, yet so southern smooth, like the firmness of Hillary Clinton meets Maya Angelo meets Scarlett O’Hara smooth.  “Ma’am, my name is Precious, and before you hang up I have a question for you in regards to a flower order.”

Precious. Her name was Precious. Not Kate or Jennifer or Susan.  But Precious.  Well played, Teleflora.  Well played.

“Okay, what do you want?”

“Last week a flower order was made by a Jeff Barclay on your Alaska Airline credit card and we wanted to know what account you wanted those airline points added to.”

My response? “Wait. What?  This has to be a mistake.  Was our credit card account hacked? Because after 26 years of knowing this man I know he knows me well enough to not give me flowers for Valentines Day.”

Precious. Firm smooth Precious.  She reached through the phone with her voice and it was as if she grabbed my hands in hers and locked my eyes with hers and she calmly said, “Oh baby, I hate to ruin the surprise but your man bought you flowers.”

My response? “Damn it, Precious! Does this mean I have to buy him something now?”

Didn’t she get it?

This branch of the Barclay tree doesn’t say I love you with cards and flowers and chocolates.  We say I love you by scrubbing cat vomit off the carpet at 3:19am so the other won’t step in it in the morning.

That’s what this branch of the Barclay family tree does.

Really.

At least it was.

Until today.

Never Turn

10339581_10202438148593260_6955960170831758957_nWhen Nick was in third grade my best friend was dying of cancer.  When we met in college, Kris immediately became my ‘sister’. We were both small town girls who still valued our small town ideals even though we were at the big university.   Looking back at our time together I have often said we grew up together…not in the terms of spending our childhood together…but in sharing monumental life changing events.  We grew together as novice mom’s seeking each others advice, we grew together as angry friends trying to cope with a devastating disease, we grew together as compliant friends knowing our time together here on earth was so short but in return so very precious, and finally we grew together as we held on to each other in the final days of her life.

Kris was a favorite “aunt” to my kids.  They loved her almost as much as they loved me, their own mom.  I was okay with that because everyone needs a few ‘moms’ in their lives, right?  When Kris’ husband called to tell me her death was imminent I was faced with a choice I never wanted to make in my life…do I take my children to say good-bye forever to someone they loved so dearly?  I thought hard.  I mean, I thought really hard about the impact this good-bye would have on my sweet Mayberry children.

I will be the first to admit I am not overly religious to the point I attend church every Sunday.  I do, however, believe in God and the power of the strength of faith. I was a witness to that faith every day in Ethiopia, when I would wake to the chants of the faithful being broadcast across the rooftops, awaking even those who seemingly have nothing to wake up to.  But each morning they rose to find faith in their God and that faith was enough to pick themselves up off the side of the road and start their day all over again. I admire that kind of faith.  The kind of faith that isn’t found between the leather covers of a bible. I find it ironic that on this occasion, where I was digging deep for an answer, it came to me in seven simple words extracted from a bible verse quoted in a Readers Digest I had plucked from a magazine rack while waiting in line at the grocery store.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.   I was sick and you visited me.

And there, in those seven simple words was my answer. Regardless of how troubling it was for me to face, I was not the one sick.  I was not the one dying.

A melting blanket of snow covered the ground on that Sunday morning in January when Hannah, Nick, and I set out for our good-bye visit.  As best as I could, I explained to them the situation.  They were as prepared as I could prepare them for what they were about to face sixty minutes south on Interstate 5.  When we pulled into Kris’ familiar driveway, Hannah immediately sidled up to me and in a panicked voice told me she couldn’t do it.  She couldn’t face seeing Kris so sick.  I respected her choice.  And I loved her all the more for her honesty. Kris knew Hannah was “with” her.  Nick, on the other hand, my snips and snails and puppy dog tails boy, didn’t flinch. J2032x1520-01024

Nick was into magic that winter.  He got a magic kit from Santa a few weeks earlier.  Little did I know he had snuck a deck of trick cards into his coat pocket.  About an hour into our visit, I heard a faint knock on the bedroom door.  Nick poked his head in and asked if he could show Kris something.  I scooted my chair back away from Kris’ bedside to make room for him.  Not only did he come directly to the bedside, he climbed up on the bed, settled in an Indian style pose, and then with a crooked smile looked a dying friend in the eye and told her he was going to show her a “magic twick”.

So there, on that wintery January day,  was my nine year old son, a magicians deck of cards in his hands, sitting on Kris’ hospital bed showing her his magic trick.  Kris, with all the strength she could muster, opened her eyes and watched.  She smiled. Reached out. Touched. Let go.  I watched her exchange with Nick.  Seated in the chair out of her line of vision I cried.   From the hall, Kris’ son Trevor called to Nick and as swiftly as he entered the room, he was gone again.  Off to play with a friend whose mom was dying. That is how Nick said good-bye forever to Kris. I scooted my chair back to be next to her bed and reached out to grab her hand, and I held on as tight as I could, never wanting to let go.  But eventually I did.  And she did too, six days later.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. 

And with that, on that snowy winter day, Kris and I taught my children our final lesson together. The most powerful lesson we could ever teach.

To never, ever turn your back.

Listen

Free-Hugs

Call me Pollyanna, but I believe in the future.  I’m not giving up.

There is potential and it is in the hearts of children, some of them whose beginnings were nothing short of grim.

I believe that every child in this world has the potential to do great things. And regardless of the beginnings it is their middle and end that will save us.  The one catch though is we as parents have got to stop stonewalling that potential.  Look what happens when we allow ourselves to park the mini van, put the year round cleats in the closet for a season, stop trying to live our lives through our children, and just listen to them.  They have a message for us.  They have a message for our world.

Listen.

“Free Hugs”. Two words on a sign and a child, making our disillusioned hearts grow three sizes, like a Grinch on Christmas Eve.

Clean water.  Two words and a child speaking out for nameless villages across the world because he knows better than most people his age that where you live should not determine if you live.

Cupcakes. One word and a child bringing a smile to those who wander the streets with a little reminder of what is truly sweet in our world.

Hugs from Heaven. Three words and a child honoring her grandma by delivering bags filled with blankets, shoes, hats, and stuffed animals to babies in a NICU.

Shoes.  One word and a child collecting 25,000 pairs of shoes for those who have none.

What do these children have in common?  Someone listened to them. And then someone else listened to them. And then, movers and shakers listened to them.  And then, the world listened to them.

Listen.

We can give our kids balance.  There is room for both extra curricular and service but the center pillar must be reality and the reality is if we don’t listen to our kids and give them a break in their scheduled-to-the-minute days to allow them to take action to be the change, that balance will permanently be tipped towards the ME rather than the WE that the change in this world so desperately needs.   Change will never happen. I promise you that.  It will never happen if you don’t just stop and listen to the children.

So tonight, instead of asking your kids what team they want to be on next ask them, “What do you want to do to change the world?”  Ask them.

And then…just listen.

Gift Exchange

20141011_162049Eleven years ago yesterday I met my eighteen year old son for the very first time.

I remember sitting on the lemon chiffon colored leather couch in the perfectly lacquered and polished greeting room at the Beijing Children’s Welfare Institute thinking, “This is my delivery room. This is where I meet our son.”  But on that morning, in the smog filled capital city of China, I was delivered more than a son, I was delivered a life changing gift. It is one I will never ever forget.

I remember sitting there, waiting for this rock star to walk into the room when the door slowly creaked open and this little boy barely tall enough to rest his chin on the door knob walked in.  He stood in the doorway briefly and during those few seconds I scanned my new son from head to toe.   He was tiny.  And so frail.   So not the giant rock star persona his thumbnail images represented in my mind.  I looked down at his hands.  His bony hands, where every tendon was a network of ridges, and in those hands he held a simple paper bag the size of a lunch sack.  I looked at that bag and under my breath I said, “Isn’t that sweet.  He’s brought me a gift.”

ME.

We were introduced.  He called me MaaMa.  I called him Baoshan.  His smile captured my heart.  I gave him a blue paper  bag full of little gifts.  A watch.  Bags of fruit snacks. A matchbox car. Sculpey clay.    Then I coaxed him into handing me the bag he held in his hands. A gift exchange!   The bag was feather weight.   As I began to open it he snatched it back into his hands.  He reached into it and pulled out a sea shell, like one that would house a hermit crab.  Glued to the narrow end of the shell was a red straw cut to about an inch.  He brought it to his lips and blew.  It was a homemade whistle. After he showed me how it worked he carefully placed it back into the brown bag, folded the top of the bag over and put it inside the gift bag I had brought.

He had made me a whistle.

I didn’t think much of his grabbing the whistle and putting it back into his brown paper bag.  I thought he was going to hang on to it for me.

I certainly wasn’t thinking like an orphan who had been institutionalized for several years.

Then, not much later, as we were gathering our documents and getting ready to head back to the hotel,  I looked around for a small suitcase or backpack or something that  held his stuff and I realized he DIDN’T have anything to carry out to the van…no suitcase…no overnight bag…no nothing…and it hit me like a sucker punch to the gut.    That  brown paper bag?  The bag I thought I was entitled to because I was coming across the ocean to bring him home?  The one that held the simple sea shell whistle? That bag wasn’t mine.  That bag and what was in it was everything that little boy could call his own.

And it was then, at that moment, my entitled world shifted.

I’ve never been the same.

My son.  My eighteen year old son who on the day we met for the first time eleven years ago yesterday couldn’t speak a word of English but in our defining first moments as mom and son I gave him the gift of fruit snacks and he in turn gave me the gift of humility.

 

 

 

 

High school football season is ramping up and although I miss part of the game, looking at the weather forecast for Friday night makes me kind of glad I have the option of hanging back at the house. To date this one particular story, It’s Only A Game,  has received the most conversation out of all my other stories. The truth behind the story? I wrote it on a Saturday morning absolutely angry beyond spoken words because of a few adults who could not stay out of my son and his friends’ game.  Writing this was the only way I could vent my frustration. My pride. My sadness.

And a fitting epilogue to the story…at the opening kick-off to this season several of these young men pulled up lawn chairs near the end zone, the Hawks Greatest Fan included, and they sat side-by-side and cheered on the game they have all loved so much these many many years.

 

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Photo credit: Dave Fisher Firehousefoto

There is something about a Friday night high school football game in late October. Lost in the action of the first quarter of play the sun sets and then suddenly a level of inwardness pulls you in, under the halo of lights, to where you forget the world beyond the glow. Voices carry. Pads crack pads. Whistles echo. Bells ring. Tempers flare. Hearts swell.

To many it becomes the only thing that matters. But after last night I reaffirmed in my heart one simple conclusion: It is only a game.

Four years ago a young man walked into Hockinson High School and I don’t think anyone could have predicted how he would singlehandedly change a community. Because he loved this game.

As a freshman he would pace the visitors sideline, because it was less crowded, and as he did he recited a play by play of Hawks football in his head. He was friends with #15, #65, #55, #11 and #78, freshmen who were called up to play varsity ball and classmates from primary school. Every Friday, as part of a socialization skill he would deliver home baked cookies to each football player at lunch.

“Find #55, Colton.”

He would find #55.

“Say, ‘Good Luck’, Colton.”

“Good Luck, man!”

With a genuine smile and thanks, every player on the team respected and regarded his need to build his social skills.

Sophomore year. More of his friends moved up to varsity. More cookies were baked and delivered during lunch. More, “Good Luck, man!”. That year he was honored with a football jersey to wear on Friday nights and he moved to call his play by play behind the Hawk bench.

Junior year. More friends. More cookies. More, “Good Luck, man!”. More realization that the young man walking in front of us was perhaps the greatest Hawks fan the school had ever seen and, maybe, just maybe, a little bit more.

Senior year. More friends. More cookies. More, “Good Luck, man!” and finally a lesson in selflessness played out not on the field but on the sidelines…delivered to us by an entire football team of young men.

There were rumblings that the Hawks Greatest Fan might be nominated for Homecoming Court. And when he was, it affirmed that this young man was something special with his peers. Fast forward to the Homecoming Game. He rode the float with the court. He was announced to the thunderous cheers of the student body. He fist pumped #21 while waiting for the crowning of Homecoming King. He smiled his infectious smile. Yet, he didn’t win. #15 did. But as fast as the crown was placed on #15’s head, it was taken off, by #15’s own hands, and placed gently on Colton’s head and in that moment Colton became everyone’s Homecoming King.

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Fast forward to a few weeks later, Senior Night. The last time this group of boys would play together on their home field. The last night Colton would pace the sidelines cheering on his friends. To honor him the entire Hawks football team donated their own money and purchased a letterman’s jacket, complete with an “Honorary Team Captain” patch sewn onto the left sleeve and four football pins representing the years he has been their greatest fan. He walked onto the field, hand in hand, to be a part of the pre-game coin toss.

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The boys lost their final home game that night but they won big in this game we call LIFE. They didn’t make the night about THEM. They made the night about someone else. They made the night about HIM. And because of their actions off the field it has reaffirmed in my heart that when these boys walk off the field for the last time ever this November they are what we can only hope all our sons will be in life. Gentlemen. Compassionate souls. Winners.

Oh, and football? Except for maybe the Greatest Hawk Fan in school history, we should all remember. It. Is. Only. A. Game.

Photo credit: Mike Schultz Battle Ground Reflector

Photo credit: Mike Schultz Battle Ground Reflector

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Moments

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I hit a deer Friday night.  It somersaulted off my left front bumper and flew into the central Washington night.  As if my day hadn’t been eventful enough, I punctuated it with an 11:55pm roadkill exclamation mark.

That morning Nick, Noah, and I packed the Dodge Ram pickup truck full of all Nick’s possessions and took off on the long drive north to Seattle. We all knew this day would come, and finally it was time to collectively wrap our minds around the moment when we would drive away from the memories of radio flyers careening down big hills, and tree forts built into century old cherry trees, and of a golden van transporting a quarterback, 3 linemen, a receiver, and a golfer around the county on epic adventures. As a parent you know it is coming but you can never fully understand that moment until you live it.

It is no fun having to parent a “grieving” child across the cab of a Dodge Ram pickup truck, a long legged Ethiopian between us, going down the highway at 70mph.

I was much better by the time we got out of Clark County only to lose it again when Nick spotted one of his  best friends driving north on I-5, heading to his new volunteer firefighter position in Longview.  Nick told me to speed up and I did.  And for a good bit of time we drove side-by-side. Windows down.  Best friends. Wingmen.  Maverick and Goose.  And then his friend signaled right, and with one last wave and “I love ya, man!” he was gone and we continued to stay the course.  Heading north.

I wouldn’t give back that tearstain moment for anything in the world.

We arrived in Seattle a little after lunchtime. By that time the vibe of the city was beginning to creep into the cab of our pickup truck.  It was exciting, this new adventure Nick was on the edge of jumping into.  He is pledging a fraternity so our destination was greek row on the north end of campus.  I knew exactly where I was going since I had been to his house before, but I was not prepared for what I was about to encounter next.

Sorority girls.

Pods of sorority girls. No, masses of sorority girls. Balloons.  Daisy Dukes. Tank tops. Greek letters.  Singing. Chanting. Blocking traffic. It was like we had rounded the corner of Seattle urban vibe and unwittingly driven right into the middle of the Sorority House Apocalypse.  But instead of zombies with eyeballs hanging out of their sockets and jaws barely attached by a tendon thread our Dodge Ram truck filled to the rim with a dresser, a desk, a bike, a suitcase, and four big plastic rubbermaid bins was surrounded by perky, bubbly, cheery fresh faced  young ladies who were obviously thrilled to be a part of the U of W Rush week.  So, as we became (for the 3rd time) entrapped at another intersection (this time at the corner of 47th and 20th) while we waited for the Tri Delts to pose for a group photo in the middle of the road I did what any mom would do in that situation.  I madly blurted out a speed review of the facts of life.  In the time it took for the last tiny tank top with three triangles across the chest to clear the road I had made my point.  Maybe not as clearly as I would have liked.  But in my mind I could rest at ease knowing my 18 year old son knew exactly where his mama stood.

I wouldn’t give back that frantic mama bear moment for anything in the world.

Noah’s eyes were WIDE by the time we had fought our way through the latest episode of Walking Keds and found safe haven in Nick’s house parking lot.  I’m 100% certain they weren’t wide with fear though, if you know what I mean. We spent the next three hours getting Nick unloaded and set up, meeting his fraternity brothers, and just enjoying our last moments together before we had to say good-bye.

And then, there was that good-bye.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Its a secret society whose initiation into it is heart wrenching.  But when it has all been said and done, there is something  extremely gratifying  about seeing my son bound up the steps of his new house two at a time because HE is ready for this.  I may not be.  But HE is.

I wouldn’t give back that “go free” moment for anything in the world.

The tears began to fall as I drove away but the soft grasp of Noah’s hand on mine made it just a little easier because with that touch he reminded me that I may have just pushed my second baby out of the nest but my job as a mom was still long from being over.

I pointed our emptied Dodge to the east and drove across the Cascade mountains to begin the second half of my day.  Spending time with my Hannah in the middle part of the state.

The plan was to meet up with Hannah and her best friend Malia.   Malia’s housemates weren’t moved in yet so Malia had extra space for Noah and I to spend the night.  Unfortunately a first of the month miscommunication between Malia and her landlord led to her power being turned off just about the time we showed up on that late Friday afternoon.  It was all good though.

Who needs electricity anyway?

FYI on a DIY: A light made of a plastic milk jug that had to be emptied anyway because the milk would go sour by Monday and a headlamp turned inward really does work, just like Pintrest said it would.  

We sat under the glow of the 1/2 gallon milk jug for several hours just talking.

I wouldn’t give back those dusk into nightfall off the grid moments for anything in the world.

As the night grew older we decided  to drive to Manastash ridge to see if we could catch the Northern Lights.  We left the the smoothness of the pavement and bumped our way up a dusty mountain road until the glow of the city lights disappeared.  And we began our wait.  We had no idea what we were really looking for but still, we waited.   And we waited some more.  We never did see the Aurora Borealis that night.  Colorado might have. But we didn’t.

I wouldn’t give back  those star gazing, universe blanketing moments for anything in the world.

We headed down the mountain a few minutes before midnight. And that’s when I hit the deer, just a mile or so after the dirt turned to pavement again.  It came out of nowhere.  We all saw it but it was too late to do anything.  To us, and our truck, the damage was non existent.  To the deer, well, she wasn’t so lucky.

In all my moments of that moving my son into college day, the happy the sad the good and the bad, I can honestly say this single moment was the only one I would give back. Without hesitation or pause.

In a single heartbeat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Water, Batman!

DSC01450For the first time in many years I am sitting at my counter on a Friday morning without even the tiniest pang of anxiousness in my stomach.  This is how it is when your son no longer plays football on Friday nights.

I had been told Nick would suit up for varsity four years ago…my 125 pound 5 foot and a half foot more little boy…and I kind of scoffed at the idea until I was standing on the sidelines in LaCenter on the opening play of the opening  game of the season and #25, in a white jersey,  streaked by.  My #25.  My Nick.  I did what any mom who saw her fourteen year old son diving headlong into a scrum of stinky sweaty bearded men who had already registered for the selective service would do.  I screamed.  And I screamed a little louder than I probably should have in public.  But still, I screamed.  Two words.  Oh shit!

Suddenly my season of just hanging out in the stands with friends while I watched the backside of my son stand next to his manly-men teammates on the sidelines on a Friday night shifted and I was forced to be engaged wholly in what was going on inside that 100 yard long rectangle.

Not long into that same game our starting quarterback, a junior, left the game with an injury.  Our backup QB? Nick’s buddy Jess, a fellow 14 year old on a field of men.  I didn’t actually see it but I can guarantee when Jess’ mom Monique saw her son walk on to the field to take his first varsity snap her reaction was exactly the same as mine. Oh shit.

We lost.  45-6

The following week Nick and Jess suited up for varsity again to play Prairie.  Again Nick streaked by and Jess took the snaps.

We lost. 54-21

The Hawks played Tacoma Baptist the next Friday night.  How hard could a private christian school from 2 hours north hit?  Apparently hard enough to shut us out.

We lost 23-0

This losing streak kept building, one game after the other.  Mark Morris.  Tumwater. R.A.Long.

After every game  I would wait for Nick by the locker room door.  He was too young to drive.  He didn’t know any of the upper classmen to hang out with so I waited for my little boy to come limping out of the locker room and I would drive him home.  After a shower he would crash on the couch and we would talk about the game and then settle into an episode of Ghost Adventures where he would fall asleep exhausted about half way through. That was our routine on Friday nights four years ago.

The losing got to Nick and Jess.  I know it did.  It also got to me.  But I think it especially got to Monique.  There is a sense of responsibility when your son is in charge of executing the plays on the field.  Its a lot of responsibility for a fourteen year old to bare.

Homecoming was the next game. Woodland was our opponent.   Our Hawks were 0-7 on the season going into this game and it was a battle to stay out of last place in the league.  We had a chance against the Beavers. A slim chance. But a chance, none the less.

The Friday morning of Homecoming I got a call from Monique.  It was a quick call because we were both getting our boys out the door for yet another team breakfast before the big game that night.

“This is kind of crazy, Julie, but desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“What do you mean?”

“I sprinkled Holy Water on Jess’ jersey this morning.  He doesn’t know it.  You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

I remember pausing,  thinking, and then reacting.

“THAT. IS. BRILLIANT!”

I think Monique was a little taken back at my supportive reaction but the truth was I was watching my son take the hits and the defeats right along her own son.  First and foremost every time our boys walked out on the field I was scared for their safety.  They were still boys in this game of legalized assault among men.

We made a pact.  We wouldn’t tell our boys  we were doing this.  It was our own private mom way of coping.  A few years earlier Monique had gone to Lourdes and brought my family back a bottle of Holy Water. I pulled if off the mantle and while Nick was showering I stealthily crept into his room and sprinkled his jersey.  By the time he had put it on it had dried, the Holy Water absorbed into the fabric.

That night, under the halo of lights, I watched in complete amazement through all four quarters as our team held on desperately for their first victory of the year.

We won 14-10.

I caught Monique’s eye at the end of the game celebration huddle in the end zone and together we mouthed the words to each other, “Holy Water.”

Not quite in the habit of sprinkling Holy Water on my son’s jersey, I forgot to do it the following week when we played Washougal.

We lost 36-0.

For the last game of the season our boys travelled north to Tenino. And so did their uniforms sprinkled with Holy Water.  Very few parents travelled the distance on that cold rainy November night.  But I did.  And so did Monique. We sat in the weathered lumber stands most likely built by trees fallen on the spot during the timber heyday of the area.  And we watched them play their hearts out in the last game of their freshman year on varsity.  A blanket of fog descended on the field and enveloped our boys in the fourth quarter.  We hardly saw any plays from where we sat but in the end it didn’t matter.

We won 21-14

Now, our Holy Water plan wasn’t perfect.  Not by any stretch of the imagination. There were loses.  And in truth after a 2-8 record that first year, there really was no where to go but up. I have to admit though, at the end of Nick and Jess’ high school career Holy Water had posted a decent winning record.  20 wins. 12 loses.  But even more impressive?  Nick and Jess made it through just about every game without serious injury.  And in the end, if you ask,  that is why I found Monique’s Holy Water plan brilliant in the first place.  It wasn’t about the wins and loses.   It was about needing just a little something more to add to my already heartfelt prayers for our boys health and safety each and every Friday night during their high school football careers.

For me?  A little sprinkle of Holy Water did just that.

krahnbarclay_3208

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