An Insignificant, Significant Moment

This weekend the NFL kicks off it’s 2010 season with the Hall of Fame game and Hall of Fame inductions.  It’s the official first game of the season “pre” or not.  As I sit here at work, now 41 years old, I get an odd feeling that I can’t shake.  A feeling that I haven’t felt in a very long time.  I’m not 41 anymore.  I’m 14.  I’m 10.  I’m loving this time of year.  Indulge me for a moment…this doesn’t happen very often.

At the corner of the road that my middle school sat on was a 7-11 convenience store.  It was about a mile from my house and yes I walked to school.  It was fun when it wasn’t raining.  Lunch money was saved so I could buy packs of football cards at the end of each week.  .25 cents bought you a pack of 16.  Sitting here tonight, stuck in this hospital full of nauseating aromas that mix with the smell of hospital sterility, I can smell that pink cardboard gum that broke into pieces when you bit into it.  I can see the white powder that seemed to gravitate to your clean school clothes.

Ahh, the power of smell is so strong.  I close my eyes for a moment, seriously, and I can see that first kick-off of the Hall of Fame game.  It was the only play I ever watched in the game but I watched every one.  After the kick I ran outside.  Football in hand and met the other neighborhood kids for a pick-up game down at the local field.

It’s that same memory that again triggers a smell that is akin to spring ball fields after winter finally begins to give way to spring.  Fresh cut grass and a little coolness in a breeze.  It happens every spring and every August as summer winds down.  It’s especially pungent in the upper north.  We tend to forget these things until they smack us in the face out of nowhere. 

That “out of nowhere” smack in the face, hit me tonight when I realized the Hall of Fame game was this weekend.  For the first time in some 30 odd years, I will miss that first kick.  A meaningless, un-inspiring, kick-off.  Yet to a kid so many years ago, it meant football season was finally here.  It meant Sunday’s with my father unless snow was falling outside because nothing was better than playing football in the snow.

In this era of 24/7 365 days a year coverage, we lose sight and memory of those moments that are now experienced by our children.  Very few things make me simply smile these days out of the blue.  Watching my 6 year old son eat for whatever reason makes me smile.  The smell of my wife’s hair when she hugs me.  Fresh cut grass taking me back to center field in the spring.

But that first kick.  That moment that the foot meets the ball and the returner begins his sprint up-field.  It’s unmistakeable.  Yeah, I miss that moment the 10 year old lived for.   I miss that odd and peculiar yet somewhat familiar smell.  Something I can only express as unique that triggers an emotional response.  Like a song that you haven’t heard in decades but you suddenly find yourself right back in your old beat up car.

Tonight as the surrounding noise breaks my thoughts and reminds that I am no longer 10, I smile.  I realize that while I haven’t seen that little kid in a very long time, he still resides inside of me.  Despite the extra little pains here and there, I really am only 41 in years. 

I smile not because football season is here, but because the power of something so small and insignificant really isn’t that insignificant at all.  At least not to the child that hides in us all.

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