The rest of the civilized world is waiting in line at their favorite restaurant on February 14th, going to a movie, or just cuddling up on the couch with popcorn and their favorite Netflix binge. Some wives may be unwrapping spa packages or a delicate new jewel, but that’s not my Coach’s love language.
No ladies, instead I have the coveted privilege of awakening before dawn, traveling 8 hours to attend – wait for it… a football clinic.
Are you married to the coach who might say in retort to my sarcasm, “Hey, he could have gone alone! At least, he invited his wife to come.” Luckily, she said without any sarcasm – so am I.
We pulled into Fredericksburg, Texas right on schedule, dumped our non-matching duffle bags in the hotel room because we only use real, civilized luggage when we fly, piled back into the car and dropped him off at the clinic just in time to hear the two speakers he had marked on the clinic itinerary.
“Be back at five- unless I text you sooner. That gives you three hours to get beautiful; you might want to get started,” he says with a brown-eyed, ornery grin I fell for one night over thirty years ago. Again ladies, close your mouths; your mama doesn’t want you catching flies. He’s all mine.
His plans did include a nice dinner for the two of us at a local restaurant before we resumed clinic activities. We feasted on Mexican food and raised our glasses in a toast to us.
With a few hours to spend before the coaches’ social began, Coach decided we should explore the town. It’s a beautifully, quaint Texas Hill country staple nestled between ranches and hill tops of knotty scrub oaks and boney sandstone. A younger me might have wished for a patio and two glasses of wine, or at least one glass of wine and one mug of beer, at the street corner bistro in this old German village, but the old coach’s wife in me knew if that’s what I really wanted, I had better speak up. My man can read a defense like champ, but if we are asking him to read my mind, we are looking at a busted play. Sure enough, within minutes of leaving the restaurant, our black SUV followed the sounds of buzzing stadium lights and the smells of weeks-old popcorn grease. I looked up from my phone as the car made one last slow turn to find myself at Fredericksburg High School’s football stadium. It’s the third stadium we have seen on this trip having turned off the highway twice to “check out the facilities”. Romance, ladies, with a capital R.
“Pretty good set-up,” Coach remarked admiring the field, the scoreboard and the press box before we pulled out from our parking spot. The field received more of compliment than my black jeans, snake-skin boots, and a brightly colored blouse that makes my green eyes pop. Sigh…
I made him stop at the exit, so I could get out and try to capture a piece of “Americana” before we drove away, taking a picture the flag and the stadium lights that always call to him.
Our evening ended at the coaches’ social. We were newcomers, outliers to band of coaches who had made this little clinic a ritual, so we spent the first hour identifying who was the head coach, the qb coach, the o-line master, the DC. My coach had met a few of them earlier in the day, and I impressed him with my ability to identify each of them cold. Again, he’s not impressed by my kissable lips, just my ability to pick out the DC. Little known fact, I can identify the strong and weak side of the field or the perfect set up for a suicide squeeze, too. If we were the subjects of others’ people watching, I am sure our observers were curious about our intimate laughter.
I’m thirty years in - I’ve done the nights alone with my babies, waking up a midnight-thirty when the garage door finally opens and my man returns to us; I’ve wrestled with the idea of competing with his love for the grid iron, for the baseball diamond, for the comradery he builds with his fellow over-grown-eighth-graders. Those feelings exist; motherhood while raising a coach ranks right up there with work. Thankfully, I learned early on the role I play each season.
I am the perspective in the seventh inning of the state tournament when we’ve just run out pitching; I’m meatball sandwiches before every jv football game; I’m the knee he reaches across the car to squeeze when we are road-tripping for a weekend away, even if its hours are filled with more ball; I am dinner in a sack from our favorite hamburger place with the kids between practice and kick-off, and I am the one who says, “You need to take your daughter to dinner or your son to the golf course,” in a gentle but firm reminder that I can be a fierce catcher protecting our home plate. At the end of the day or any season, I’m the heart who’s lucky to love what he loves.
I could go on, but we are pulling into another perfect little Texas town, and he has spotted the stadium lights. Happy Love Story to me.