I’ve been Matthew’s mom for four years now, and Luke’s for two. And I have to be honest: there is a little part of me that still marvels at the fact that I — I! — gave birth to boys.
This feeling becomes all the more acute whenever these boys want to play ball with me.
I want to be clear about that fact that I’ve never been your classic “girly girl.” But my childhood pursuits were, overall, typically feminine: playing with dolls, having tea parties, taking ballet, collecting stickers. Stereotypically boy pursuits, like football, were just not my scene. When my family would go to football games, I’d sit there with a book, totally engrossed, only looking up when the team scored and everyone in the stands around me jumped to their feet and hollered. Even now, thirty years later, I’m not entirely sure how the game is played.
Enter Matthew, the sport’s newest fan. Ever since he watched the Big Game with my dad, he has been gung-ho about playing football. In the absence of other available players, I am heavily recruited.
“I’ll be Stanford,” he tells me, holding a ball, “and you can be Cal.”
I tamp down my instinctive distaste at this idea (I may not know a quarterback from a wide receiver, but I did do my grad school at Stanford, and tribal loyalties die hard). “If you’re Stanford and I’m Cal, who will Lukey be?”
“He’ll be the 49ers,” says Matthew.
So we play out on the lawn on a foggy Saturday morning. Stanford, low and quick, tucks the ball under his arm and darts across the lawn, screaming with glee. Cal rather clumsily chases after him, pretending to reach strenuously for the ball, while the 49ers soon forfeit the game, diverted by the thrill of climbing the neighbors’ front steps. It’s damp out there, so I try to avoid falling onto the muddy lawn.
I’m not very good at this game, but it’s clear that my effort is appreciated by Matthew. And it also becomes clear to me that the game is less about forty yard-lines and field goals and more about a mom running with her two little boys, excited shrieks filling the morning air, sharing a moment that one day, when the boys are big and burly and can really play football, will just be a golden memory.
I stop and grab Lukey and twirl him around in the air. He chortles with deep, throaty laughter. Matthew stops running and looks at me, the mother who has so much to learn.
“No, Mommy,” he says patiently. “Cal doesn’t DO that to the 49ers.”
Maybe not. But in my fantasy football league, they do. They just can’t help themselves.