Something Folded; Something Gained
November 20, 2017 § 15 Comments
By Lea Page
It is the day after the final soccer game for the Division III State Championship, and my son and I are sitting on the rug in his room doing a laundry-folding blitz. Throughout this hectic season, during which he played two sports (varsity soccer and split-midgets hockey) and generated a steady supply of sweaty work-out clothes, he managed to wash his clothes but couldn’t quite keep up with the folding and putting-away. So today, we are tackling together the red and white mountain of jerseys, socks and Under Armor.
After winning nineteen straight games, most of them shut-outs, Thomas’s soccer team lost their first and only game of the season, 1-0. Although they were the number one seed this year, they came to the final game as underdogs, playing the team that has won the championship for the last three years. Thomas’ high school has never won a championship game and has only sent a team to the finals once before. The stakes and the hopes couldn’t be higher. I prayed to the soccer gods for a win for these boys, partly because they were a skilled team that worked together in a unified and fluid way that is rare to see, and partly because these boys, who had grown up and played together since the beginning, had folded Thomas, a homeschooler, into the team so seamlessly that no one would ever guess that he hadn’t been there forever.
It was not to be. Not this time. The bus, decked out with the boys’ names and numbers, was escorted back into town by two police cruisers with full lights and sirens. After some goodies in the school cafeteria and a speech by the coach, the boys had mostly regained their composure, goofing around and posing for photographs. They were the same boys after the loss as they were before it, just with a temporary burden of disappointment. Life goes on, high school hockey practice would start in two days, and the pile of laundry waited.
So here we are, folding and matching.
“Some of the guys were more upset than they showed,” my son says to me. I turn out another basket and pull out a sweatshirt. “And some, who I didn’t expect, were really upset. The defenders: I think they felt that we…. well, left them hanging.”
“A loss is always hardest on the defense,” I say as I smooth a pair of wrinkly jeans. “And everybody has their own way of dealing with it.”
“The police escort was the hardest part,” Thomas admits, and he is quiet for a while. “I tried to keep it together. I really tried,” he says, stacking underwear. “But I guess I can be glad that, as a sophomore, I got the chance to play a big role on a team that made it to the finals. And there is always next year. And hockey.” Then he holds his hands to his head, falls back and groans. It still hurts.
The last of the piles is tucked away into drawers. He gives me a hug as we head back downstairs. Hockey is less laundry-intensive, since most of the gear is pads, which don’t get washed much (ew!). I am grateful today for the opportunity the pile of laundry has given us.
Thomas heads out to get the mail and comes back in, handing me a manila envelope with my name and address written in my own hand. It is my essay about bullying that I had submitted to a magazine, returned to me with very kind rejection letter. This, too, is not to be. Not this time. “Oh, well,” I say. I am more disappointed, maybe, than I show.
With sympathy in his eyes, Thomas says, “I’m sorry, Mom.”
I am the same person now, with this next rejection, that I was before, right? I sigh and smile at him. It still hurts. At least I can count on laundry.
Lea Page‘s essays and articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Rumpus, The Boiler, Krista Tippet’s On Being Blog, Tiferet Journal, Soundings Review, and Hippocampus, among others. She is the author of Parenting in the Here and Now (Floris Books, 2015).