Some of my earliest memories are of attending high school football games in my hometown. Despite the fact that neither of my parents had grown up there, once our family settled in Lowell, Indiana in the early 1960’s, they became loyal fans.
Once inside the gates of the football field, Mom and Dad would let us know our boundaries. We could play over here or over there. Go no further than this spot. Check in regularly. Have fun!
We did have fun too. Hanging out with other children. Tossing small plastic footballs around. Concessions. Shoot, once in a while, we would even pay attention to the game.
As the younger of the two, I would always seem to run out of energy before John did. I would make my way up the bleachers to where Mom and Dad were seated, and snuggle up next to them for warmth.
At halftime, Dad would always give me change to go get myself some hot chocolate. That was, I believe, the best part of high school football games in Lowell. Members of the local athletic booster club stood at the ready inside the small concession stand. Exchanging popcorn, Pepsi, or hot chocolate for a quarter each.
I would make my way to the front of the packed line, cutting in front of all those grown-ups. It was before kindergarten where I finally learned about how lines worked. I always prided myself in my cunning, as I slid past the crowd to get my chocolatey drink.
Looking back, I know that the hot chocolate was a bit watery. It was also scalding hot! I don’t know if lids for styrofoam cups had yet to be invented, or if they just were never thought to be important, but on more than one occasion my hand would get burnt by my sloshing beverage.
I was always in impatient little boy. I couldn’t wait for that first good sip. So, I’d force myself to take a sip, burning my tongue as I did.
Once back in the stands with Mom and Dad, they would patiently remind me to gently blow on the surface of the hot chocolate to help it cool.
Soon enough, I would be sipping my drink, and watching the game, and cheering on our team. Friday nights were so much fun. Mom and Dad saw to it.
Remembering back to those times, a few weeks ago, I announced my desire to start taking our family to the local high school football games this fall. The timing of my pronouncement could not have been worse. Our family’s schedule was already pretty full, and so for the first few weeks, there was simply no way to follow through on attending any games.
This past Friday night, Amanda was feeling under the weather. Shaun and I were having some dinner, and it occurred to me that it was game night. A quick check of the calendar confirmed that it was a home game. I excitedly announced my plans to Shaun. We were going to watch “our team” play football!
We were both so excited that we were ready to leave a good forty-five minutes early. That was the longest forty-five minutes I can remember in recent history. Our shared excitement built as the time to leave grew near.
Once we found our seats, we sat down and the questions began. Shaun wanted to know about everything. I did my best to explain why there was a marching band, why so many of the players stood lining the field instead of playing, why students were dressed so oddly…
His most pressing question had to do with the concession stand. He had seen others carrying popcorn, and he wanted some too. I assured him that we would go get some soon.
It took us some time to find it, but eventually we found the concessions. Holy cow, these folks do concessions right. I could get kettle corn, an all beef hotdog, or even Chick-fil-A. Oh, and not a single thing for a quarter. Luckily I had brought plenty of cash!
Despite the wide selection, Shaun just wanted popcorn. Two bucks for a little box. Then he saw it, a hand written sign that read “hot chocolate $2.00.” He pointed and looked up at me. Of course, I had to say “yes.”
The hot chocolate came with a lid! Oh these modern times!!!
We found a plastic stirring stick he could use as a straw, and stuck it through the top of the lid. Back at our seats, I warned him that it would take time for his drink to cool. He was predictably impatient, and checked it too soon, burning his tongue a little. We agreed to set it aside for a while until it had cooled.
When the time came, Shaun asked if I would check the temperature of his drink for him. Cautiously, I pulled a bit of hot chocolate up the straw and into my mouth. It tasted just as I had remembered it tasting so many years ago. I smiled as I handed it to him, assuring him that it was ready to drink.
Creating memories is such a valuable part of any relationship. It is a way of making an investment in ourselves as well as the people with whom we are making them. Decades ago, my parents invested in making memories for John and me. Family vacations. Special Sunday nights when Mom would announce we were having popcorn for supper. Saturday morning omelets made by Dad. Friday night football games.
Like any investment, a bit of faith is required. There is, after all, no way to be sure that a child will remember such things. No way to be certain that the investment of time, energy, and money will ever pay off. Yet, as parents, we are called upon to make such investments in our children, having faith that one day they will serve as reminders of the love we shared.
Today, life gives me plenty of opportunities to act in faith. To invest in my future. To take time today, having faith that it will make a difference tomorrow.
The Narcotics Anonymous program is all about investing today. As recovering addicts work steps and strive to live lives guided by spiritual principles, we not only improve our todays, we also invest in our tomorrows. These investments in recovery help bring the message of NA to fruition in the life of every addict: an addict, any addict, can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live.
I cannot be sure that Shaun will remember our first football game together. Years from now it may not even register as a faint recollection. Regardless, I’ll continue making such investments in his life, having faith that, bare minimum, he will be able to look back one day years from now and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was loved.
Have a remarkable day!