This entry is long, personal, a little sad, a little lecture-y, kind of direction-less, and is only barely related to the Sabres and/or hockey. But for whatever reason, it's what popped out when I sat down to write a Thanksgiving post. You've been warned.
I was at the library the other day, sitting at a table in the children's section, flipping through the Christmas books, trying to find a few I thought my boys at school would like. At the table there was a little boy, probably, I don't know 5 or 6, sitting with his dad. It appeared that they were with mom and daughter as well but the little guy was fixated on his dad. I tend to notice parents and small children anyway, but they really caught my attention because I heard the boy ask, "But why is it a blue line? Why isn't it green or purple?" Judging by the dad's reaction, that question was probably one of many, many questions he'd been asked that day. He'd clearly left the "Awww, son, aren't you adorable?" portion of the conversation and moved into, "Oh, god, please make the questions stop!" But from the point-of-view of an innocent bystander, it was pretty cute.
Pretty much as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a mother. I didn't want a career, I didn't want to work outside of the home, I just wanted to raise a passel of children. I went to college because I felt like I had to but my heart was never in it (and that was reflected in my grades) and I admit, I never thought twice about dropping out shortly before I got married. Looking back this was foolhardy (kids, get your degrees or professional training), but I had my life planned out and having gotten married young - just shy of 22 - things were pretty much on-track.
And that's when things derailed. I thought it was probably not a good sign that we hadn't gotten accidentally pregnant over the course of a few years. And then we couldn't get pregnant on purpose. And then a doctor told me it would, for medical reasons, be very difficult for me to get pregnant without help. And then we tried help - lots of pokey, proddy, invasive, painful, embarrassing, and expensive help - and we still couldn't get pregnant. We were bleeding money, not to mention sanity and emotional well-being so we stopped. Please believe me that if you had children without charts and thermometers and shots and tests, infertility is something that you do not, cannot, and will not ever come close to understanding. It is devastating. (We watched Up last night and the beginning montage was a killer, but the shot that really got me was not the one in the hospital where Carl is comforting Ellie, but the one immediately after where Ellie is sitting in a chair in the yard, eyes closed, still and silent. In that one image, Pixar pretty much nailed it.)
We talked about and looked into other alternatives but without going into a lot of detail, none of them have fit, none of them have worked out. I've spent the last year or so grappling with the idea that there's a very real possibility that I won't ever have children. There are certain things that I've always thought about doing and sharing with a son or daughter, and I've been trying to gently set those things aside, one-by-one. Okay, so I might not ever see my own child read a book for the first time. At least my job is such that I get to work with a new group of young, struggling readers every year. I get to see that light come on when they realize, "Hey, I can read!" and I can make sure they experience lots of Roald Dahl. I might not get to sit down with my own kid and share my favorite movies and TV shows, but I can visit my nephew Luke or have him visit me and make sure he knows lightsabers, and hobbits, and Muppets, and the Truffle Shuffle.
The one thing I've had a very difficult time letting go of, however, is sports. I've always loved sports, both playing and watching. I spent huge amounts of my childhood and teen years playing soccer, basketball, and softball - especially softball - and I loved every moment of it. My mom was a saint and I have never for one second doubted that she loved me, but she was not a sports lover herself. In some ways that was good - she didn't care if I won or lost, didn't complain to my coaches about playing time or strategy, always made sure I was having fun above all else - but she also couldn't toss a ball around with me or throw me pitches or shoot hoops. She always knew who my favorite teams and players were, but she didn't particularly enjoy watching sporting events. When I dreamed of having kids, I dreamed of teaching them to throw and catch and hit, of picking out that first glove and trying on that first uniform. When Mark and I moved to Buffalo, hockey entered the equation, of course. I thought about watching my kids learn to skate, maybe even learning with them. In Birmingham we didn't have any pro sports teams so getting to games was tough, but Buffalo totally solved that problem. How awesome would it be to take my kids to Sabres games and slowly teach them about the game and watch them fall in love with a team or a player the way I did with the Pirates and Andy Van Slyke when I was a kid?
When I go to Sabres games, I always make a trip to the Sabres store. When I go to the Sabres store, I always wander over to the kids side, and I always end up picking up one of the smallest Sabres jerseys, holding it up, studying it from every angle. And for that moment I can almost picture my dream child, a small boy - I admit, it's always a boy - with Mark's dark curls and my blue eyes, jumping up and down with a big grin because he's about to get his first jersey. And I'm pretty sure, in that moment, I can actually feel and hear my heart shattering into a million pieces all over again.
There are many things I'm thankful for this holiday season - my sweet husband, 120 lb. puppies, a job I love, wonderful co-workers, the students, many already world-weary, who let me into their lives every year, hockey, hockey blogs, all the great friends I've made through hockey blogs, those I've met in real-life and those I haven't - but it would be a lie to say that I don't feel like there's a little bit of a hole there that I'm still trying to fill. I don't want to sound like I'm lecturing, but I do hope that those of you who are parents are really embracing and enjoying it. I hope that even when you're piling kids and hockey equipment into a car at 6 a.m. and answering the 87th question about why the lines on the ice are blue and red and not purple and orange, you realize what a privilege it is to be the person who gets to do those things. It's a gift. It really is.