Fire in the Belly

‘One dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.’ J.R.R. Tolkien

Ajay was on the soccer field by 7am yesterday morning and  he played his heart out all day in a tournament. 7am  this morning will find us  once again doing this same thing- with high hopes of heading toward a championship showdown in the afternoon.

On his soccer team he plays the position called ‘striker’ – which means he is often the one who is shooting for the goal. Yesterday in the last game of the afternoon, he beat the defenders down the field and had five clear shots at the goal- and accordingly, he hammered out five beautiful, fierce kicks- that each fell just inches right, left, or above, the net. He was poetry in motion- almost.  (Unfortunately, it was not just his personal compass that was off- his team as a whole had 17 shots for goals- and not one landed in the net.) Alas the soccer Gods were nothing if not fair, because whatever invisible force field was deflecting our goal shots, seemed to be giving equal time to our opponents as well. The game ended in a zero to zero tie.

Yesterday was long busy day- but it never matters how many miles Ajay has logged in  a day- if there is a ball rolling in front of him- he keeps going. His older brother was a phenomenal athlete as well, but when Sutter walked away at the end of a game, he could let the game stay behind. Ajay and the game are inseparable- either Ajay never leaves the game, or it never leaves him. He has to be forced off the field because without fail,  he’ll keep kicking until the sun goes down on him…  and even when we drag him into the car- the game still comes with him.  Post contest, on the ride home, he relives every play out loud while we drive- and makes astute commentary on everything that has just gone down. He hijacks Brian’s phone and starts pouring over video of every play played- and I have to admit,  we usually cringe at the things he says- because Ajay  is often Ajay’s biggest fan 🙂

As much as I would have appreciated having a quiet, humble, egalitarian child-  that is just not what the stork left in the bassinet for us. This kid has what I like to call ‘ fire in the belly’ – he has always just had a little more kick than what is necessary- and that extra kick is both his burden and his blessing. It is what makes his coaches love him on the days when he is on fire and killin’ it, and  it is what makes them want to tear their hair out on days like today- when he is on fire and missin’ it….( And missin’ it, and missin’ it.)

So, yesterday was a rough one- certainly not one of his better performances technically- and the ride home was quieter than usual, and he never went anywhere near wanting to watch the game video. Quiet or not, if he was second guessing his performance, by the time we pulled into our garage and put the car in park, the sting seemed to have worn off.

A few months ago it was announced that in 2017 our home City would be getting a professional soccer team and last night was an exhibition game to jump start local interest. Ajay has been waiting patiently to see this ‘real’ soccer game- ( his first time viewing a pro game live) and even though he was exhausted from his long day playing,  as soon as we got home, he was pushing to head out the door and get to the ‘pro game.’ When 7pm rolled around, he was dressed in his club uniform and ready to go. (His independent wardrobe choice.)

Just before leaving for the game, he asked , ‘ Mom- do you think I should wear my cleats?’

Without giving his question much thought I quickly answered in the negative and said, ‘No, you’ve been in those cleats all day- wear something comfortable…’ 

Without missing a beat he grinned up at me and said, ‘but what if they need me to go down on the field and play…?

It was one of those moments that I will remember for a long time.

He was kidding when he said it? Or was he? Why couldn’t this willful, spirited, boy of ours- grow into a young man who will lace up his cleats to go out on that very field and play?

 You never really know what the future holds… when you have a kid with fire in the belly…