The Arena: a Lens onto Life

I lost and found my son this weekend on the ice

He was there, and then…. he skated into a corner away from sight

I imagined him in the middle of a scrum of bodies and sticks – eyes locked on the puck

Somehow he looks bigger as he wheels around the net, glances past the crease and backhands a pass to his waiting teammate

It is his ease of movement that makes me search for the answers I don’t really want to reflect on – just, how did he grow up so fast? And what’s next?

I blink. He’s gone… then I focus to see that he has gathered in the puck from his opponent’s blade and has nudged it forward;

He spins off his back leg and begins a deliberate, looping stride towards the side boards, flicks the puck against the boards and accelerates over the blue line

It seems he carries the puck in slow motion,

Yet I realize that this game is really in fast-forward

He’s skating too fast, as there’s no stopping his advance

So, I need to ask these questions:

In five years – will he get the shot off – and find his mark?

In ten years, which arena might I find this young man?

I study his moves. I need to burn it all into my memory.

With a burst of energy he cuts around a player, and with shoulder down, stickhandles neatly beyond two defenders and swings in towards the goal – mere seconds of ice time capturing years of development

A whistle, some yelling from the bench and pounding music from the arena’s PA system

He circles around to line up for the faceoff – what’s next?

University courses; wedding receptions; a first day at a new job?

He sets for the drop of the puck – and I’m processing a whirl of freeze-frames:

tugging his sweater on overtop of his shoulder and elbow pads

tightening his laces and clicking the snaps of his helmet

my parting locker room words of endearment: “Skate hard every shift. Have fun.”

then after, his tired, satisfied smile; that smell of sweat from soaked mats of hair

and the car rides to and from the arena; and those questions that start with

      “Dad….”

Peering through the glass, I’m witness to this game, yet unable to be part of it

I watch his boyhood in flashes now – with our family turning on his every blade stroke

He’s reaching forward, stick extended, body twisted – anticipating a pass

And I’m anxious with hopes and aspirations for his future happiness…

In another instant, he’s stride for stride, leaning in against another body, locked in a match of force and determination

Yet, I remember vividly those precious moments when I held him in my hands, and ran around the house carrying him piggyback

There’s another whistle, he twirls on one skate, right in front of me, and skates away towards the bench – it’s him, yes, I see it is, but only after focusing on our name on the back of the jersey.

There are times I see my own breath rise in the cold of the arena, and our reality is caught up in a few seconds of blurred colours, sticks, a puck – and my son

He’s turning and digs in to push off, the puck dances on his stick in front of him, and he darts ahead to open ice, sure of himself and where he must skate

On the ice, he’s always enjoying the moment, yet I see that he’s stretching, honing skills

He circles, glides with one leg lifted in front of him, lifts his head towards me and grins

I stare upward; the game clock is going too fast for us at this rink. I don’t want to avert my eyes – there is only so much time to etch these glimpses of our lives.

 

— Chris George 

10 thoughts on “The Arena: a Lens onto Life”

  1. Great! Who knows,some day we will see him in a montreal uniform. Yeeaa. a toronto uniform? yuk.Just kidding. Keep up the good work Chris.
    Love your pictures.
    mike

  2. Great poem Chris! It really captures the many diverse feelings we experience watching our kids out there. Regan is in her last year of hockey now and I cannot believe how fast the time has gone. I cherish every moment. The roads trips and car rides with her and my other two children is time I may never have had if not for hockey. They grow up way too fast! It is great to watch them develop into wonderful people but sometimes I can’t help but miss the little babies they were.

  3. Thank you to all who have e-mailed me or connected with my Facebook page. I appreciate your observations and pleased that this poem struck a chord for you and your family.

    I’ve had some questions regarding any other hockey-related posts – and you can see “puck-ish” quotes and writings on the By George Journal in the archives tagged hockey:

    http://cgacommunications.com/bygeorge/?tag=hockey

    I’m reminded of the saying that “Life is the mundane we all must accept between hockey games.” Enjoy these diversions until we see each other again at the rink.

  4. I loved it! Can I use it in my classroom?
    Every hockey parent can relate to this poem! It captures all of our hopes and aspirations for all our kids. After all, isn’t the hockey arena a metaphor for life?
    Angela

  5. Wow!!! I read this poem this morning after a phenomenal game last night. What a great way to start the day. Thanks Chris. Your poem says it all!

  6. Again, thank you for the stream of e-mails and to all who have commented on the poem. Judging by the numbers of responses I received, it appears that the verse really struck a chord. The reality is that kids grow up too fast. However, as parents, this is a very special time in our own lives. The memories of our child’s character developing are memories we carry with us to forever. For the whole of the family, it’s so very rewarding.

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