My dear boy, my youngest hockey player,
Do you know how often someone tells me how big the grin on your face is when you are on the ice? They marvel at the fact that you play for 50 minutes straight and the smile never wavers. The same people laugh when you skate by me, sitting in the stands, with that grin on your face. They don’t see the mischievous twinkle in your eye when you catch mine. But I see it.
I try to tell them that you have wanted this since you were little. I tell them one of your first full sentences was “I go hockey”. You were two at the time and all blond hair and big blue eyes. You are still all blond hair and big blue eyes. And this year, you hit the ice and figured out how to skate. You spent two years in Initiation skating with your right ankle at such an angle one of your coaches asked me if something was wrong.
Nope, nothing wrong with you, you just needed time to sort things out for yourself. And you did. Now you move. You fly. This year I have had the pleasure of watching it come together for you. Similar to the way it did for your oldest brother, but still in your own unique style. You do not have it in you to do anything half way. You play hockey the same way you live your life. Full on, full speed, full happy. You are my hurricane.
And it is breathtaking to watch.
There is no point in sugar coating it, you are getting the short end of the hockey stick in a lot of ways. You have never worn brand new equipment. Your hockey sticks have all been hand-me-downs. By the time you hit the ice in Initiation, there was a feeling of been there, done that, can’t wait for it to be over sort of deal.
But you are making your mark. One of my most treasured pictures is a dark, early winter morning trek to our minivan, you toting your stick. You are facing away from me in that picture, but I know it’s you. I will always know it’s you because that was our tradition, that last year of Initiation. We would leave the house early to get breakfast at Tim Horton’s (and coffee for your momma) before heading to the rink. Some mornings, like the one in that picture, it would be 6am with fresh snow on the ground.
I wish you could have the Novice experience your brothers did. I wish you played full ice games the way they did. Not because I disagree with what Hockey Canada is attempting to do, but selfishly, because confining you to a small space feels a bit like preventing a bird from flying. That said, you have learned so much from this season. You have touched the puck more. You’ve scored more goals. While this season is already different than any other we have experienced, you have still managed to make it your own and make the best of it.
You have a knack for making things work for you, my youngest hockey player. When we put you into CanSkate at the age of three, you were so mad that you didn’t get a hockey stick to go with it. You sat in the middle of the ice and cried for weeks on end. And we kept putting you on the ice. Once we got through the stubborn, you played your way through skating lessons.
You still need to learn that sometimes you have to take the path in front of you. And we still need to remember to let you create your own path on occasion.
Because you are not your brothers. You are the third. You are the youngest. It’s your “firsts” that stick in my brain better. I’m not bogged down by toddlers and sleep deprivation. And your firsts are lasts for me. Your first goal will be the last first goal I witness. Your first tournament win will be the last first win I’m part of. You get the idea. There is something about being the youngest that augments all your milestones just a little higher in my memory bank than those of your brothers. Just don’t tell them that.
I may have lost the knowledge of how many inches long you were at birth (a fact that your aunt has never forgiven me for) but I know exactly when you started hockey and every team you’ve played with every year you’ve played. And I promise you, I will remember your hockey firsts as they come.
Most importantly, I will remember a blond haired, blue eyed boy with a mile wide smile because he gets to “go hockey”.
All my love, my hurricane.