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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Memories, dreams, reflections: "Don't challenge the USA on July 10"

Memories, dreams, and reflections

Our hearts were so full, our minds on fire.

Kaia was the world's number one US Women's World Cup Soccer Fan. She knew all the players' statistics, their backgrounds, their strong points. She was one of the thousands of little girls who looked up to these young women and counted the hours until her own next soccer practice and the next televised game. She was good. Had a strong leg, a mean mid-field boot. She could score from there, and was a master at corner kicks.

Kaia and Annika both wore their autographed World Cup tee-shirts. They'd met Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilley and I forget who all else.The girls had watched the US Team practice at a field close to our house, fell in love with the whole phenomenon.

We'd gone to the teams' hotel, also nearby, collected more autographs, met Swedish and Brazilian players as they headed out to the bus; Annika -- at age 6 -- was interviewed on Brazilian TV. Marta impressed us then.

Dave and Kaia were at Soldier Field in Chicago when the US played a penultimate game. We scheduled our lives around tournament matches. We did not miss even part of one. There is still a special box of memorabilia -- programs, tickets, autographs, noise-makers, souvenir mini-balls -- in Kaia's closet. Her passion and joy were so infectious it could not help but capture and move us all.

July 10, 1999. The Finals. The Rose Bowl, Pasadena California. 90,000 in the crowd in Pasadena, millions of us completely enthralled at home. Even I remember all the names of all the starting players. We had finger foods to munch on while we watched in the family room but none of us could manage a bite. Too much excitement, tension, uncertainty. Each one of us had our spot. And I don't think we moved so much as a finger. The telephone went unanswered. A thief could have driven off in the car. We were there. In the zone. All in. Just the four of us. No distractions.

The game itself was a thrill, tight, tense. China seemed to have our number. Kaia was curled around a commemorative soccer ball of her own. Annika had her game face on.

Dave and I had our own reason for sweating bullets. We were as eager as anyone to see the US win. And, as parents, we couldn't imagine the heart and soul our daughters were pouring into this and their heartbreak if the US lost.

But we were down to the wire on another front. Today was T-Day. The day we had put off and off. The day we finally had to Tell the girls we were likely moving to Littleton. Kaia with her best friend, Jenna, would be crushed. She had such a wonderful, full life in Naperville. It was wrenching, awful to think of pulling her away from friends, her soccer team, her special school programs, church, piano lessons, oh, STOP! Jan. Really. I can go downhill fast when I think along that line. I felt guilty as all hell.

But moving felt right, overall. Annika seemed more flexible, I wasn't as worried about her transition as I should have been. Annika would be in 2nd grade that fall, Kaia in 6th. Oh, the whole thing felt unreal.

Today, that day, July 10, 1999, however, was the day we HAD to tell them. We were all making a trial, audition trip to Denver in two weeks. They needed time to get their heads around the idea and we had to make specific plans. So Dave and I had an extra reason for hoping and praying the US would win. A loss and bad news, both on the same day would be really bad news. We had our hearts in our throats. Or whatever it is we say about those moments. Sweating bullets seems to cover it.

And the US won. In the most dramatic way possible. The ecstasy. The whooping and hollering we let go on and on and on and on.

Then, later in the day, we told them. They were more sanguine than I expected. We talked about the details.

Today, July 10, 2011. We watched another miracle finish by the US. There is no big news looming. Kaia has graduated from college and is living in a lovely house in Minneapolis. She even had her grandparents over for lunch today. Annika is visiting her and the two girls are doing well. They watched the game together with Grandma and Grandpa and life goes on.

Moving to Littleton was a good thing and a bad thing for them, for us all. It took me a longer time than anyone else to get used to all the change. And then I got whomped. Who ever could have foreseen, or even imagined that? No Hollywood screenwriter would have accepted the script; too over the top.

In truth, it is a painful memory for me. All that followed. Too much pain, too much hate. Too many encounters with evil. As much as we protected the girls, it has had an impact on them both. But they are doing well. And they learned more than we ever bargained.

Despite Oprah's insistence on "moving on" and catharsis and just getting on with your life, the centuries before her wisdom hit the small screen suggest to us that there is a time for letting go, AND a time for holding. A time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to get over it and a time to linger with the grief long enough to learn its lessons.

My body woke up grieving today before my mind even had a clue what for. It took hours and an explicit reminder before my heart and mind caught up with my emotions and my guts. "Oh, that day." Some bodies have a mind of their own. Mine does. It told me to take time, for the memories, the dreams, and the reflections.

Nothing can excuse hateful, evil actions. It takes time to absorb the blows. But now, here we are. Not immobilized anymore. Not overcome by grief. But mindful, reflective. Sober. And, having counted the cost, all in all, grateful to still be here.

And ready for a nap. I'll go conquer the world tomorrow. You can be on duty today.

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