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The ending of things

February 26, 2012

“Though here at journey’s end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars forever dwell,
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.”

~J.R.R. Tolkien

This weekend brought an end to what, for the last 12 years, has been an incredibly important part of my family’s life. No one died, there were no permanent disabling injuries, no terminal illnesses, no one moved, no one got divorced . . . And yet, it seems like something important will forever been gone.

On Saturday night, my great big baby boy played his last hockey game on his home ice arena. No longer will he head down the street to the oh so familiar locker rooms, lace up his skates and head out on rinks that he has spent a formidable part of his life on. He is a senior and this is his last year with the Burnsville Hockey program. No longer will I be spending my spring, summer, fall and winter heading to the rink to drop him off at clinics, watch his games, get him to practice on time; no longer will I write out checks equivalent to a family vacation each year for registrations, ice bills, tournament expenses, summer clinics, spring teams, new sticks, new equipment, skate sharpening . . .for him, all of this is done. I can’t even begin to know what all of this means to him nor how he feels about this, but I know how I feel.

When we signed him up for that first year of mite hockey, 12 years ago, I had no idea how this one thing was going to impact my life. I had some basic understanding of the commitment that is hockey, since my brother had played hockey all the way through school, and he was a goalie no less. But that was different. I was his sister, not his mother. It didn’t become MY life, it was just something that lingered in the background, something that we had to go to somedays. When Tyler started, and when his father signed up to coach him, then and only then, did my life begin to change. That first year, it was easy, now that I think about it. I had a baby in a car seat to haul with me to every game, but he only had hockey on the weekends, and his dad got him to most things because he was the coach. Then came spring teams and summer programs. By Tyler’s second year of hockey, I went and watched him play, while in labor with my third child, and chasing a toddler. It had officially become a lifestyle.

We, as parents, had no delusions of grandeur. We never believed he would grow up and get drafted by the NHL. We didn’t base our college planning on which school was going to give him the best scholarship to go play there. We wanted him to get some exercise, learn the value of teamwork and make some new friends. As long as he worked as hard as he could at every practice and game, we didn’t care what team he ended up on. He would make friends on whatever team he was on, and more importantly, so would we.

The people I have met throughout these years have become some of my closest friends. They are my social network. They are my lifeline. They have seen me at my best and my worst. They have been there throughout the lives of my children and they have watched them grow. We have all become a part of each other’s lives. When you spend as much time in freezing cold arenas, huddling together for warmth as we have, this is bound to happen. We have been through it all. We have watched relationships begin and end, we have welcomed new babies into this world together and have said goodbye as well. We, this community of hockey families, have also come together to support our own during the worst of times. When we lost one of our boys, tragically, at too young of an age, this community banded together to offer support and help the likes of which I have never seen before. They were amazing, and they were wonderful.

As for the boys who played all of these years with Tyler? They are my boys. I didn’t just get to watch my son grow and develop as a hockey player and a man, I got to watch a wonderful group of boys do the same. I have had the pleasure of making breakfast for a house full of boys on many occasions through the years. And I have spoiled them rotten. Crepes, Belgian waffles, caramel rolls, beignets? Absolutely I will make them. Knee hockey tournaments that end with a head or a butt going through my wall are a commonplace occurrence around here. I will have a lifetime to have a neat, tidy, well decorated house. They only stay kids for so long. While I complain bitterly about the mountain of shoes, skates, sticks and bags that clog up my front entryway, when it is gone I won’t know what to do.

Our winter vacations consisted of outstate hockey tournaments and stolen trips to the cabin to skate on that ice. Spring vacations were not something we understood. We plan our lives around the hockey calendar. Tyler missed his uncle’s wedding because he had tryouts that weekend. We could only go on summer vacations in August because that’s when the clinics and summer teams were done. For a while the nurses in the local hospital’s radiology department knew me by name, we were there so much with one injury or another. I can drive to just about any rink within a 40 mile radius of my hometown, tell you which ones are the coldest and which ones have the best popcorn. I know that a laundry tub full of warm water and a cap full of bleach is a great way to get the stink out of hockey equipment and that $200 sticks break just as easily as $40 sticks. And I know that little boys who watch Sports Center highlights and can recite every line from the movie Miracle eventually do grow up.

I am sad for my son. I am sad that it is over. If I had my way, he would stay young and happy and with his best friends forever. They would grab a snack, throw their sticks and skates over their shoulders and head down to skate at the rink every day after school. They would make that perfect pass, score that amazing goal and win that important game every time. To see them smile and laugh and play the game that they love is magical.

Unfortunately time isn’t something I can stop. I can only cheer on their final games and be proud, incredibly proud, of my son. He has grown up so much through these years. I look at man he is becoming and I can’t help but marvel at how much he has grown. Congratulations Tyler. I love you. Thank you for letting me sit in the bleachers and watch you play.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Diane permalink
    February 26, 2012 10:45 am

    Well said Julie! On to new adventures! And about the having a lifetime to have a clean orderly house, not if you are lucky enough to have grandchildren! 🙂

  2. Kim permalink
    February 26, 2012 11:45 pm

    Nicely done….the picture looks great too! 😉

  3. crazycraftenmamma permalink
    February 27, 2012 12:39 am

    Great post! Made me tear up!

  4. Shari permalink
    February 27, 2012 10:07 am

    Wow Julie, brought tears to my eyes too! Nicely done & like Grandma said heres to new & different adventures!

  5. Robyn permalink
    March 9, 2012 11:25 pm

    I’m finally getting caught up on my internet reading….your blog is great. And this entry was so well put, an excellent piece of work!

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