“Atta girl, aim for those corners!” My dad yelled from 20 feet away with a big smile on his face.
My dad and I had been outside for about three hours that cold Christmas morning—gloves and all—trying perfecting my shot.
As I began to wind up my feisty, little, brown haired pony-tailed self for the next go, my mom yelled from the front step with a blanket around her.
“Aren’t you two going to come inside and eat some of these cookies? It’s cold out here! I promise Santa won’t take the net away!”
“We will, soon!” My Dad and I both yelled in unison. He rolled me the next ball.
The sound of a soccer ball ripping into the back of the net will always remind me of that Christmas morning. My fifth grade year my parents surprised me with a regulation size soccer goal—a big surprise that I was not expecting. Of course I wanted it, but it just seemed too big of a gift to actually ask for.
During that time I was playing on my church team, a competitive select team, two indoor teams, and trying out for the best team in the state for a year above my age bracket. Soccer was my life. Hence the gift of the soccer goal that would sit right smack in the middle of our front yard for all the neighbors to see for years to come. (It went really well with my mom’s beautiful flowers, in case you were wondering.)
Throughout the coming years, any free chance I had to practice I would be out there sinking that beautiful ball into the upper left hand corner; after school, with friends, when I was mad at my siblings (I have five of them so it was often), or right before a game. I was always out there practicing.
My dad’s home office window looked right out into the yard where I am sure he sat and watched me get frustrated a million times. It always seemed that he would come out and play with me at the just the right time, whether that be to calm me down and set my hot-headed-self straight.
Looking back on it now, I realize how that soccer goal became a sacred space for my dad and me. He came out to play when he wanted to chat with me about his ideas for his business, when I needed to talk about friend problems at school, when my mom was really sick, and when I plotted to sneak out of the house once. Some of our best conversations happened 20 feet away from each other at that soccer net.
It’s been a while since I heard that sound.
My dad says that as time went on he could feel the power of my shot increasing—when his little girl with her jersey taped up around her arms to stay on turned into the girl who shot so hard the goal would tip over. I gave up playing competitively after my high school team won the state championship two years in a row, my junior and senior years. I was burnt out, and over my soccer fetish by then.
But maybe this Christmas morning I will roll that net back out again to spend time with one of the best gifts I never could have asked for but have been graciously given, my father.
Flickr/ Christian M. M. Brady