Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Big Reveal And The Game Trick

Before I tell the story of Eli 9.6 and The Game Trick, here's a quick skating update of my own.

Much to my surprise, it seems to be going well. I can (awkwardly) do crossovers in both directions, although my "marching sideways along the wall" skill has become quite good, as a precursor to the real thing. I'm also doing backward swizzles--again, very awkwardly--up to five at a time.

The first week, there were no positive moments. It was just scary. Now, though, I get all kinds of positive reinforcement every day, and I can feel myself improving. Plus, my back hurts much less, and I was able to stay out for 45 minutes today, which is much better (I can improve even faster when I can stay out longer).

The Big Reveal came last week, and I would have written about it immediately, but it wasn't a big moment, just a very nice one. Eli had been bothered by my mysterious disappearances on Thursday night, so much so that it was very upsetting to him. I should have thought about this beforehand, because I always tell him everything, so keeping a secret was a complete breach of protocol, but I thought he would be okay with not knowing for a few weeks.

As it turns out, I was incorrect.

So last week, on our way home, I said, "Hey, are you still upset about not knowing where I'm going on Thursdays?"

"Yes," he said. "I don't like it at all."

I pulled into a parking lot. "Well, it's a surprise for you, but I understand if not knowing where I am bothers you," I said. "And even though the surprise is worth waiting for, if you need to know what it is, then you can take my keys and look in the trunk. You don't have to, but you can."

He was quiet for a few seconds. "I'd like to wait," he said, "but it has really been bothering me." He took the keys from my hand, then opened the door and walked around to the back. I got out of the car and walked back with him.

"Open the trunk," I said, and he did. What he saw was a black equipment bag. "Hey, that's my old bag," he said.

"That's right," I said. "Go ahead and open it."

He unzipped the bag and pulled back the flap, then just stared. My skates were on top, and it was easy to see my lemon yellow helmet on the side. A small grin started on his face, then grew larger. He looked up at me and was grinning from ear to ear. "You're learning how to skate," he said.

"I am," I said, "and I'm working very, very hard."

He hugged me. "I can't believe it," he said. "And I know you'll be able to do it."

We actually skated together (Gloria, too) last Friday, on the snow day, and I skated as well as I could, which meant I was awful. It was good for him to see me that way, though, because I'm improving quickly, and the next time we go together, I will be much better.

Now, on to The Game Trick.

Eli 9.6s House team has split into three separate teams, and they're playing each other in league games. His team was scheduled to play the middle game of three (the third game was younger kids in a separate group) games on Saturday. Eli was playing in goal, and he was bummed out that he wasn't going to play as a defenseman. "Hey, let's just show up before the first game," I said. "One of those teams will probably need a sub. We'll take both bags of gear, and you'll probably get to play."

"YES!" he said.

So we showed up before the first game, they did need a sub, and he played the first game as a defenseman. He played well, but the team lost.

In the second game, with him in goal, his teammates totally and entirely abandoned the idea of defenseman. Instead, they went with a radical and forward-thinking (literally) "five forwards" concept, and in the first half of the first period, there were eight (EIGHT!) clear breakaways bearing down on him.

In short order, he gave up five goals.

This was emotionally brutal, obviously. It looked like the other team could easily score fifteen goals, because no one on his team was playing any defense at all.

It seemed like there was nothing anyone could do.

Then, the best player on the other team (who'd already scored twice) came in on a breakaway, skated around the net, and tried to stuff the puck in on the other side. Eli, who had been screened, hadn't been able to reach the post, but he dove and extended his stick across the goal line.

Door closed.

It was the greatest save I'd ever seen him make, just totally spectacular, and once he did that, he because The Great Wall. He made save after crazy save, seventeen in a row. Parents don't pound on the glass much at this age, at least not down here. But with every save, it seemed like someone else would pound on the glass, and it progressively got louder and louder. In the third period, every time he made a save, it was deafening.

Incredibly, the momentum turned, and his sad-sack team started coming back, all the way to 5-5 with a few minutes left in the third period.

It would have been the greatest tie ever, but it wasn't to be. There was one last breakaway, and Eli stopped the initial shot, but the rebound got past him. His team wound up losing 6-5--a spectacular result, all things considered, but still a disappointing one.

Man, I was so proud of him.

"I bet the Mites need another goalie," he said as he came off the ice. That was the third game with the younger kids playing 1/2 ice games. They did, so he stayed and played goalie for them, too.

When the game ended, he skated off and raised his arms when he saw me. He raised his helmet, took out his mouthpiece, and said, "Three games! The game trick!"

We all went to dinner together, and while we were waiting for our food, I said, "So, are you actually tired for once?"

"Oh, I'm EXHAUSTED," he said.

"So you won't want to do that again?" I asked.

"OF COURSE I do," he said.

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