Love Hurts

The girls arrive at practice looking similar to how I would have shown up 25 years ago. Shorts, tank top, slightly sunburnt forehead, cleats and a stick, mouthguard tucked into the strap of a jog bra. Many are tired from an all day tournament the day before, six games played on the fields of Burlington, NC with no shade. As I reffed my fifth game, I thought back to last week’s post and wished one of those parents whom I sat with at the athletic banquet would show up with oranges or dry socks. We begin practice with many of the same drills I did in the eighties: shuttle passing, footwork, shooting on the goal.  Sometimes I feel like a “hasbeen” in front of these girls, perhaps not just in terms of lacrosse. Sure the game has gotten better, the equipment is easier to perform with, the clothes more streamlined and somehow every player seems stronger, taller, and faster. What do I seem like to them? A really old spaz with nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon? A scary ref who is a rule fanatic? They would probably never guess that I hate dog leash laws. I consider the posted speed limit to be a suggestion much of the time. And I loathe going to the post office because the clerks always find some reason to make me go to the end of the line; either my letter is wrongly addressed or my credit card isn’t signed or my photo id just doesn’t look enough like me.

Earlier in the week our facilitator had inquired if the coaches needed to change the practice schedule because of mother’s day. Though I have 3 girls of my own, my family knows if I get to pick the days activity, it will most likely include some outside sport, and probably lacrosse. It’s a new game where I live and it is growing like wildfire. As I drive through neighborhoods, I see the orange metal pipes of lacrosse goals peaking through azaleas. Kids show up in the park with sticks and a ball and everyone seems to have at least one pair of mesh shorts with a college lacrosse team logo on the thigh. Lacrosse has had some tough press here, not undeservedly so. We are twenty miles from Durham where the Duke lacrosse scandal and the pathetic handling of the case played out in very public display. Not a highlight for the sport where everyone thinks it is a game of privileged players. And for the most part they are right, particularly compared to other sports where God given talent is often the only way out of life’s defeating patterns.

I thought of three people on Mother’s Day morning. First, I thought of my own Mom and all she has done for me and with me. Cindi is a professional volunteer, the kind of person who treats her free job better than most six figured salary employees I know. She has given her life to the episcopal church and along the way become an activist and a liberal (I doubt she would agree with those exact words but I mean them as a compliment). She does not carry picket signs or apply bumper stickers to her car but she really works for a difference and still believes change can be made. She has conducted case studies on the role of women in the church and traveled thousands of miles around Virginia to make sure people are informed on church business. She thinks about inclusive vocabulary when asking a newcomer in the church yard, “Are there other members in your household?” She has sewn strapless rouched taffeta prom dresses, Halloween costumes, and doll clothes. I was a non-sandwich eater in high school and she would make me a salad for lunch and squeeze a grapefruit in a glass so I could guzzle it down in my bedroom while getting dressed…every morning. One summer I decided to take swim team seriously and wanted to do long distance in the morning.  5:30 in the morning. My mother drove me twice a week. She listens a lot to me and occasionally tells me what I don’t want to hear. My Mom is a work horse who does not know the meaning of halfway or good enough. My children should be so lucky.

The other two Moms I thought about yesterday lost children on a previous mother’s day. Ben Woodruff, the brother and son of friends of mine, died in the UNC fire in 1996. Yeardley Love was murdered by her boyfriend last year. Both anniversaries fall on mother’s day. I am sure it is a hard day but what one isn’t without your child? The Gospel Reading yesterday was The Road to Emmaus, where Jesus shows up after his death but the disciples do not recognize Him, until after a meal is shared. As I sat listening to the reading I thought of the mothers, walking their own road, wanting a visit or a sign of their resurrected child. Would they recognize it? Would I?

So it is time for practice to begin. My heart is full but heavy today. We do what we know how. One foot in front of the other. Routine. Drills. The practice centers on creating competition: for each dropped ball, a sprint. As I use my watch to time a run, a player notices my blue rubber bracelet that says One Love. “Is that for Yeardley?” she asks. I reply: “Sort of. It’s really for me and for you… in honor of her.” The girls looks inquisitive so I pull everyone in to a huddle. As lacrosse players they are a familiar with Yeardley’s vibrant smile and the blue and orange #1 jersey, now retired from UVA. I explain that sports is about so much more than acquiring a skill set of physical demands. It is about empowerment, and strength and self worth. It is about doing something bigger than yourself. And if I can teach that to one girl, than I know I have honored Yeardley Love and her mother. I will have honored my Mother and my girls.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cindi Bartol on May 9, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    your writing brings back so many expanded memories – and prayers for so many others whose pathways we have crossed. I claim the ‘liberal activist’ identity you have given me and will say that I have gathered at DuPont Circle in Washington, marched up Mass. Ave. and demonstrated outside the Embassy of Sudan on behalf of the Episcopal Church’s support of the people in Sudan and the injustise being done to others – loved the honking of horns and cat-whistles coming from the peoples on buses affirming what we were doing!!! Your girls are so fortunate to have you as a role model 🙂


  2. Posted by lisa costello on May 10, 2011 at 6:34 am

    Hi Mel – saw this on C Dysarts Facebook and as a coach, wanted to read it! Didn’t realize what a crossover since Yeardley played for me all four years at NDP!! Strange all the connections. ANyway, love your blog – glad Paige filled me in on it – and hope you are doing well. – Lisa


    • OMG how bizarro that we are linked in a million ways. I did not realize you coached at NDP…what a loss. Thanks for reading. I will have to figure out how to fit some funny post-college stories in! That will really show I am not your preachers wife!!!


  3. Mel,
    You and your mom are among my favorite mother-daughter combinations. Beauties inside and out, and steel magnolias.
    Happy belated mother’s day,


  4. Posted by LCM on May 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Once again fabulous!!


  5. Posted by K Hamilton on May 11, 2011 at 7:52 am

    I am writing this with tears in my eyes! Again, I am amazed by your words! How poignant, how thought provoking, so beautifully written. I am a big fan!!!


  6. Posted by Linda Berry on May 11, 2011 at 8:37 am



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