It’s been a busy month, as the lowered number of blog entries this October shows. Today, nothing heavy — just a short bit of praise for life in Maine.
Saturday the neighbors have an old fashioned “Big Squeeze” party, turning apples into cider. We spent a few hours on a beautiful autumn day drinking some cider and chatting about various things, with the kids running around with other kids having fun. The neighbors have a beautiful rural Maine yard, with some sheep, right on the woods, and the setting and socializing was relaxing and enjoyable.
Sunday was soccer, as kids Kindergarten through sixth grade play, learning the game, taught by high school coaches every Sunday in September and October. They have their uniforms, cleats, shin guards and play pretty good. The Kindergarteners have their own learning sessions, while the rest are in two divisions — the younger (grades 1 through 3) and older (grades 4 through 6). They play four ten minute quarters, and all together just under 200 kids are involved. We mingle and talk to friends and other parents, as people good naturedly cheer on their teams.
After soccer, we decide to go to the local theater to watch “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” Tickets are $5 for adults, and $3 for children. Popcorn is $2. The seats are big and comfortable, reclining slightly — the best movie theater seats I’ve ever experienced. The leg room is exceptional. The movie is fun. When we arrive we see the college soccer game over in the nearby fields — a series of ball and soccer fields next to the river. It’s tempting to go watch, but of course the movie is starting soon.
Monday is the first day of soccer playoffs. It feels almost like a Norman Rockwell painting as the kids sit listening to the local high school coach praise their efforts. The sun is setting — it’s 5:30, but it is a warm autumn night, about 50 degrees. The lights are on for the field, kids are laughing, and though its past peak, the autumn leaves on the trees are blowing around. They start with the national anthem, a recording played as people look on to the flag out on the far end of the field. The kids are told they can put their hand on their hearts “if they want to,” but they should be quiet. The coach wants them to demonstrate being quiet by asking “do you understand me” and having them be silent. He tries about ten times, but the kids never get it. First they yell “yes,” and then “no,” thinking that’s what he wants…and finally the recording starts playing and the children become quiet.
Ryan’s team wins 1-0 to advance to the semi-finals, thanks to some really good players on the team (Ryan is unafraid, but inexperienced — he’s lucky to be on a good team), but the parents are good natured on both sides. The teams have fun, and now that it’s cold after dark, the bigger kids take the field for their game. The kids are laughing and enjoying themselves. A few are disappointed that their season ended tonight, but that’s one of the lessons of sports — you don’t win all the time. Semi-finals on Wednesday.
Tuesday evening I decide to try to give Ryan some practice so I pick the boys up from day care/after school care, and after grabbing a snack at the local down town market, head to the school. We get out the soccer ball and run around. Other kids are there, and for awhile they play a game of anarchical soccer — no goals or rules, just having fun. They take a break and play on the playground with some other kids, I play monster for three year old Dana who is laughing hysterically as we run around. The other kids leave, it’s after 6:00, and the boys are still kicking around the soccer ball, as it gets darker and darker. Though it’s getting chilly, they refuse their coats. Finally, they’re tired and it’s time to go home.
At some point tonight as I watched them run around, and thought about this weekend, I realized that at least for this small town, the Maine motto “the way life should be” rings true. The community putting together a soccer program that creates real fun and learning for young children, the cheap but comfortable movie theater, the glorious beauty of autumn. Having fun with neighbors, children laughing playing outside, this is magical. In a world where it’s easy to feel nostalgic about the past, or spend time planning and worrying about the future, I spent this weekend basking in and enjoying the present.