I guess I always love beginnings a little more than endings. The holiday season signifies the end of the football season for us. I do love the holidays, but I also know from years past that the weeks leading to Christmas are filled with an array of interesting events, mishaps and a mixture of football practices, games and holiday hoopla. The Coach and I aren’t perfect planners when it comes to the Christmas season, possibly because we have used up lots of our energy (and quite a bit of our sanity), in the months leading to the championship/Christmas season. We don’t do a very good job of getting everything in order and beautiful, and my family usually isn’t ready for Christmas until…well Christmas. There have been very few years when The Coach helped to decorate the Christmas tree. The Coach likes to tell me how many teams would kill just to be in our shoes. Playing in December is a big deal! He has what some people call “tunnel vision” this time of the year. I compare it to looking through a toilet paper roll at the world. Either way, he only has one thing on the brain. I guess that’s what makes him a pretty good coach.
Really, I just need to find some holiday momentum. In football when your team makes a good run, gets a first down, or especially when they make a big play for a touch down, your team gains momentum. It’s a real thing, trust me. I have seen it at work. Momentum is key in a successful win. If your team loses its momentum, you had better do something quick to get it back.
I’ve tried to get my Christmas momentum going by listening to endless carols, and watching the yule log on youtube during the school day while I have children glue glitter and sequins to hand painted Christmas trees. It’s not working! Why can’t I get ready for the holiday season and begin feeling festive? The Coach isn’t home this time of year. He’s still coaching. It is truly wonderful. It’s amazing and crazy, and it is a feeling like no other when you win, but it is also the last leg in a very long race that began back in July. It’s the home stretch. It’s the big finale. It is the pressure to win another championship mixed with the pressure to give the best gifts, host the best parties and look the part while doing it all. My emotions are on a football playoff-holiday style rollercoaster.
This time of the year is magical for most people. The parties and gatherings, parades and plays are all exciting and involve fun, food and friends. While all of that is going on for most families, and even for my family, we still aren’t really in the holiday mood just yet. Right now, I have a 12 foot tall tree that is on my back porch crooked in its stand. There are no lights or ornaments adorning it. We did get a tree up in the foyer last weekend for show. I literally took the final two pumpkins to the compost today. We are almost half way through December people. The whole Christmas card thing isn’t looking very good for this year, and if they ever get made and mailed it might be a miracle. Day by day I pull out Christmas decorations from the attic, while what I truly need to be doing is cleaning the leaves out of our gutters, and figuring out what the heck has happened in our garage. This should have been done weeks ago! Some things must be postponed until the last play is called, and the players walk off the field.
Tonight we play our final game of the playoffs in hopes that it will be a big win, and we will head to Raleigh on the 17th. The end is there in sight. It is both bitter and sweet. Perhaps we play for one more week and come home as champions again. I know that when the season comes to a close we celebrate. We don’t just celebrate wins, we celebrate life. All of the imperfections in my decorations, my lack of meticulously wrapped presents, followed by my exhaustion and need for quiet forces me to focus on the true meaning of the holiday season… family, friends, community, faith. We appreciate time to just be together and reflect on how we made it all the way to the end of this magical road we get to travel each year. We feel blessed and fortunate that our team played all the way until the Christmas holidays took over. We celebrate the fact that we weathered one more football season together, and in looking back we realize that we have grown stronger. We feel the true meaning of the holidays all around us in this community we love, in the team we love, and in friends and family who managed to love us even at our worst moments of the season.
We have a game in the freezing cold tonight. It should be a good game, and probably a late night for us all. The kids have been preparing by finding their long johns and gloves. I will stop by Tractor Supply this afternoon to pick up Hot Hands in the jumbo pack. When I sit and look out over our Shelby field for the final time this season, I will be looking for the Christmas star high above the crowd, the players and cheerleaders probably won’t even notice it shining above them. The smoky smell of hamburgers on the grill and warm popcorn will linger in the brisk air. The sound of the drums and the laughter of kids playing their own game on the hill will hum and rumble in the background of the night. The sight of The Coach down there on the sidelines pacing and waving his arms with all of the assistant coaches, players, trainers and managers, will remind me of all the people and hard work that have gone into this moment. This time of the year is a mixing and mingling, but not the kind in Jingle Bell Rock. It is a mix of finishing a great football season, and preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is all right here in a delirious mess of bells and lights, glitter and glue, and football.