Josh on the Ice

My brother and his wife are in that stage of life when their kids’ activities inevitably overlap. Sometimes there are more places to be at one time than is physically possible.

Mark and I are in that stage of life when we often have nothing on our plates. My brother, realizing this about us, called a couple of weeks back to see if we might be able to help him out on a Friday night. Among his four kids, one had a hockey tournament in another city, one had a gymnastics meet at home, and the youngest had a hockey game in a nearby city. My brother would be accompanying his oldest son to the out-of-town tournament. His wife would be accompanying their daughter to her gymnastics meet. He wanted to know if Mark and I might help them out by taking their youngest, Josh to his hockey game last night.

It was an easy decision. We had nothing on our calendar and were free for the evening. Josh is my godson, so I have an extra soft-spot for him anyway. And he’s eight years old. Kids are cute at that age. Besides, hockey is one of the few sports our own kids didn’t play, so we thought it would be fun to go cheer on the little guy.

We picked up Josh after I got home from work and loaded him, his hockey sticks, and the big bag o’ hockey gear into the truck. The rink wasn’t all that far from home, but because of rush hour traffic, we gave ourselves an hour to get there. And as we expected, the drive was slow. Josh chatted from the back seat in that adorable way that little kids have of expressing themselves. Eight year-olds are honest. There’s not arrogance. They just tell it like it is.

“You guys are lucky to be coming to my game,” he announced as he watched the scenery pass out the window.

“We are,” we agreed. “We’re excited about seeing you play,” Mark said.

I was excited too,” Josh said in earnest. “I was counting the days.”

There was a little lull in the conversation before he picked up again.

“I’m a fast skater.”

“I heard that,” I said. “Your dad told me you’re pretty good.”

“I scored a goal at my last game. It was so fun! It was easy too. We beat that team like eleven to nothing. I like scoring goals. We’ll probably win our game tonight.”

The truck continued along the freeway and it was quiet again until Mark asked Josh about school. He rambled on about movie-reward day and how “some… a few … a handful” of his classmates hadn’t behaved during music class.

“The music teacher doesn’t yell at us,” he said.

“That’s good,” I said. “So how does she ask kids to behave?”

HE … claps his hands and just says, ‘Sit down, please.’”

I smiled at the not-so subtle way Josh had corrected my misconception of his music teacher’s gender.

“I think his throat must hurt,” Josh said about the teacher who doesn’t yell. “That’s why he doesn’t yell at us.”

I tried not to giggle.

Josh kept watching out the windows, asking periodically how long before we’d arrive. I assured him it wouldn’t be too much longer.

“Hey, look,” he shouted! His head was tilted upward as he watched the clouds in the sky. “It’s a frog!”

“Where,” I asked?

“Right there! See him? He’s holding a tea-cup in one hand and a shrimp in the other!”

I couldn’t see the frog in the clouds but pretended I did. I wished my imagination was still as unfettered as Josh’s.

We finally arrived at the hockey arena where young parents with young children hovered around, watching their kids play or helping them into or out of their hockey gear and socializing with each other. It occurred to me that it wasn’t so long ago that my days were dictated by my kids’ activities.It wasn’t so long ago that my social life included parents of the kids who were my kids’ teammates. But there I was, feeling older and somewhat like an outsider.

Mark went into the locker room with Josh and helped him tie up his skates. Then we found a place against the clearest spot I could find in the plexi-glass where I might snap some shots of Josh playing.

The game was fun. Those little kids are impressive the way they get around on their skates and manage to handle the puck. They also spend a lot of time tripping over one another, falling and getting back up again. I was impressed with their resolve. But no wonder Josh was tired by the time the game was done. We offered to take him out to a restaurant with us, but he was ready to go home and shower and slip into his pajamas.

Oh, and Josh was right. They did win! Two to nothing. Josh almost got a goal. We told him how we watched him get ready for the pass in front of the net. He was there. He was open. But the pass never came.

“He wanted to get his own goal,” Josh said of his teammate who had failed to pass the puck. There was no judgement in his opinion. Just fact.

Josh was quiet on the way home. It was clear that he was tired. He told us he hoped we’d come see another one of his games sometime and we assured him we’d try.

I helped him carry his stuff back into the house when we got him home and he gave me a big hug before I left.

It was fun spending time with Josh. I hope we do it again soon.