We spent quite a bit of time traveling this fall. We’d never seen one of M’s college soccer games in person during her first year, and so we were excited to head out to Iowa when school started for year two. We flew to Grinnell just after dropping J off at the airport for Italy, and I truly appreciated the distraction so that I wasn’t home fretting about whether she’d find her family in a foreign country. It coincided with a brand-new initiative, an alumni weekend for athletes, and even though I am not sufficiently athletic to have qualified on my own, I was Cute W’s plus one (he played soccer and dove at college), and we enjoyed the perks between the games, like a little reception. When we had spare drink tickets, I looked around the alumni to find young soccer women, and when I passed them along, explaining that my daughter was on the team, one of them referred to M’s nickname that we’d never heard of, saying, “OH, you’re MRS. MO!”
We went to Wisconsin in October. M’s soccer team was traveling there, and we had long planned to meet friends for a visit as well as watching soccer. We’d tentatively planned a trip for 2021, then scrapped it when we realized it was J’s last volleyball season, and we ended up regretting it. So we were very glad to go and see our college friend, along with getting to watch soccer and hang out with other parents. I was also hell-bent on Living Our Best Empty Nester Lives, so we spent some of our free time doing Wisconsin things, like visiting a creamery. . .
. . . and walking along lakes (Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac, then Lake Michigan in Milwaukee), taking couple selfies all the while.
We were Deeply Impressed by how many bars there were and how they all seemed to be packed with people. Whenever we remarked upon it, people would say, “That’s Wisconsin for you.”
Shortly after that trip, we made a super spur-of-the-moment trip back to Iowa when it seemed within the realm of possibility that M and her teammates could win their conference championship. This time, since we hadn’t planned ahead and flying would be expensive, we drove all the way (by which I mean mostly Cute W drove). Literally about 16 hours each way, but with stops and traffic, more like 20. It ended up being totally worth it. For their game on Saturday, it was unbelievably cold and rainy and windy and miserable. I was looking for a photo that Cute W took of me when I was trying to wrestle myself back into my soaking and flimsy rain poncho after we’d sheltered in our car during halftime. But I couldn’t find it, so here’s Cute W taking photos.
After years of training as sports parents with cars packed with spare blankets and supplies (I remember wearing ski pants to an early spring game one year), we’d been so distracted by the sheer craziness of a massive whirlwind road trip that we hadn’t prepared ourselves for how cold and wet it got. I’d even changed jeans in the car during halftime because my first pair was so soaked.
M’s team prevailed through the awful weather, and in a twist of luck, the sun came out for the other semi-final game that followed theirs.
The final on Sunday was a complete nail-biter, with a tie as regular time ended and through two overtime periods, followed by penalty kicks. Whenever I think of penalty kicks, I think of Glennon Doyle’s quote, “pray for everyone’s mothers,” as part of her hilarious explanation of soccer for beginners (although I actually do understand offside, thank-you-very-much). While some may call penalty kicks a “horrific” “form of torture,” in this case, the game ended with a win from the penalty kick shoot-out, so it was fantastic, especially since one of the kicks was M’s first-ever college goal (she’s in defense, so she doesn’t get that far forward too often).
As I was packing for one of these many soccer trips, I had to laugh at all of the college gear I’d accumulated. When you, your husband, and your first born all attend the same college, here’s what it looks like when you pack to watch a game:
Of course, it’s nice to switch things up. And recently, after some good news, we made some new purchases. . . .
Yay for J!!! Happily, she has been accepted to her first-choice college and can continue living her best life in Italy for the remainder of her senior year without the stressful spectre of college admissions hovering anymore.