Hockey Mama

October 20th, 2008

I grew up around ice hockey, grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago skating on outdoor rinks back in the day when winter was winter. My father was president of the hockey association; my mother was variously treasurer and secretary. Later my father coached the high school team and also a young adult league. My older brother played hockey from the time he was five or six until he left for college; after college he played in an adult league and coached high school hockey for a few years. Ever the little sister, I played hockey myself for a season, but this was back before a lot of girls played hockey and I was the only girl my age in the league. Not on my team – in the entire suburban league I played in. There was another girl two years older than me, her name was Annie, but in my age group I was it.  After one year of having to stand alone in the hallway while the boys changed in the locker room, of getting checked and knocked down because girls don’t play hockey, I retreated to the stands and the occasional stint in the scorer’s box. But I grew up around hockey.

My mother was a hockey mom. She went to every single hockey game my brother played in for a dozen years. She drove him to practice and car-pooled his teammates and served early dinners and reheated leftovers so that everybody got to eat. She kept his skates sharpened and his equipment aired out and always knew where the hockey tape was. She huddled in warming houses with the other hockey moms and drank cup after cup of bad vending machine coffee. She stepped in as time-keeper and score-keeper when somebody went missing in action and she was the unofficial record-keeper for every team my brother ever played on, keeping track of minutes played and goals for and against and goals and assists and penalty minutes for entire teams of exuberant boys. She cheered and yelled and taught me the phrase “cherry-picking.” She was a hockey mom extraordinaire at a time when nobody cared about the hockey moms.

Since the day Small Boy put on skates last winter and I guided him around the rink by holding his hands as I skated backwards, I’ve been looking forward to this winter, to this year when he would become old enough to start the hockey camp, to being a hockey mom. Hockey school started on Saturday, so I am officially a hockey mom, at last, and I cannot begin to tell you how annoyed – irritated and angry and cheated – I feel to become a hockey mom at a time when the phrase “hockey mom” is associated with someone with whom I have no desire whatsoever to be associated. So please forgive this brief forray into American politics, but I’m feeling the need to reclaim the phrase “hockey mom.”

I like cities. (Most NHL teams, by the way, are found in cities, as are most theatres and opera houses and ballet companies and baseball teams. It just kind of works out that way.) They are vibrant and exciting and give people opportunities to follow their dreams. I like small towns. They allow people to connect more deeply with each other and to look closely into the fabric of their own lives and dreams. I like that I can decide which one fits me better. I am a hockey mom.

I live at the foot of the Swiss Alps and yet I think Yellowstone National Park is the most beautiful place in the world. I believe that geography does not define love of country. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that a blistering slapshot from the point is the most beautiful thing in sports. I am a hockey mom.

I have enough faith in women to allow them to make the most personal decisions about their lives without paternalist outside interference from people who know nothing about them or their circumstances. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that starting a family through in-vitro fertilization is as special as starting a family through sex and I believe that the children of in-vitro fertilization are magical. I believe that the decision to seek fertility treatment is a decision a couple can only make for themselves and I believe that treatment should be available. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that embryonic stem-cell research has enormous potential and that couples who undergo in-vitro should be able to donate embryos to research if they so desire. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that reasoned disagreement is the engine of democracy and that reasonable people can disagree reasonably. The operative word is reasonable. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that the overwhelming majority of global warming is the result of human activity and I believe that the majority of statistical findings support this belief. I am a hockey mom.

I believe in the scientific method and that science is a method, not a subject. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that Wayne Gretzky played a type of hockey that the rest of us could only dream of. I am a hockey mom. 

I believe that wild places like ANWR matter. They matter simply because of what they are, not because of what they can give us. ANWR isn’t about the energy we could harness. Places like ANWR, places like Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park and the great network of American parks, are about setting aside something rare and wonderful and preserving it simply because it is rare and wonderful. It is about knowing that there is still something wild and mysterious left in the world. Wild places matter. They matter because they inspire us and teach us. They make us whole. They heal our wounds. They let us dream. They call us to glory and if we listen they teach us the liberating magic of being wholly who and what we are in that moment. They show us, however briefly, a world outside of ourselves. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that while one of us is oppressed none of us is free. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that the world – that new things, new people, new places – can only be approached with an open mind and an open heart. I am a hockey mom.

The word “cosmopolitan” is not derogatory. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that knowledge matters, that facts matter, that expertise matters, that “elite” means highly skilled and that highly skilled people are not, by definition, bad people. I am a hockey mom.

I believe that I am but one of many, that our diversity is our strength, that the sum is greater than the whole of the parts, that we stand together or fall alone, that an open hand is more powerful than a closed fist, that generosity is strength, that I am less when you are suffering and that I am strengthened by your joy, and that greatness cannot exist in isolation, for even Wayne Gretzky needed a team to play on. I am a hockey mom.

I voted for Barack Obama and I am a hockey mom.


9 Responses to “Hockey Mama”

  1. Julia on October 20, 2008 12:50 pm

    Well shot. I agree with you, and found your comment about geography not defining love of country especially resonant. (Expats you know 😉

  2. kristen on October 20, 2008 4:26 pm

    Can I say this brought tears to my eyes? Well-done, my friend.

  3. Bethany on October 20, 2008 4:54 pm

    Lovely and creative, and oh I am hoping my absentee ballot comes in time!

  4. jo(e) on October 21, 2008 11:41 pm

    Well said!

    (applauding)

  5. Ellen K. on October 22, 2008 1:44 pm

    Yeah! Awesome. : )

  6. joseph duemer on October 22, 2008 3:10 pm

    Nicely said!

  7. durable pigments on October 22, 2008 4:39 pm

    I love, just love this, Jen. Love the reclaiming, and everything you say here… this is me standing in the bleachers waving a giant foam thumb crying, “You’re number one! You’re number one!” Yes, yes, and yes.

  8. magpie on October 22, 2008 11:38 pm

    Yes, yes and yes again!

  9. Jennifer on October 23, 2008 8:52 am

    Thank you everybody. I’m pretty proud of this one, actually.

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