No one really knows how it got started—perhaps someone mentioned it or it was a group effort, or it began as a random text message sent out the night before, hastily pulled together at the last moment. All of these possibilities are equally plausible; this is how many things get started in “The ‘Hood”.
All we know is that four years ago, we began meeting up on Thanksgiving morning for the American tradition of football. It was an excellent way to get out of the house a bit and (hopefully) de-stress before having to fight our way through seas of relatives later. Even better, we all worked up an appetite before the big dinner!
Rain or shine (or snow, as the case was in 2013), the gang shows up at Washington School slightly less than promptly. The game is scheduled to start at 9, so most people are there by 9:30. There is happy conversation over hot chocolate, orange juice, coffee, and usually fruit, breakfast bars, and no-bake cookies. General exclamations of excitement and happiness echo in the group as we welcome back members of our neighborhood family who vanished into the unknown darkness of college back in August.
After finally catching up, finishing our hot drinks, and somehow wrangling all twenty to thirty of us together to take a picture, the game begins. At the same time, many of the last shreds of cohesion and attempts at organized play end. The teams are split up randomly. Usually it is the three or four men who head our strategies that take the game most seriously, and even they can’t be said to actually want to win. We huddle and throw snowballs as we strategize, then after yelling, “BREAK!” most of us ask each other what the plan is again. No one really remembers.
So mostly we just run around, forgetting who is on our team and blocking the person who is supposed to be the quarterback, fumbling the ball continuously and scoring a touchdown on the wrong side of the field. Eventually, hands numb and cheeks scarlet from the cold, we declare the game over and return to the now-lukewarm drinks. Amidst laughing and companionship, there are always the questions of “What was the score again?” and “Which team won?” Again, no one really remembers. But there is no need to.
We pack up quickly, eager to return to our warm kitchens where we will soon be laughing with our actual relatives and sniffing the scents of hot food. All of us experience an invigorating feeling as we leave the field; although we awoke only an hour before, we are now eager and ready to face the day that we originally greeted with half-hearted excitement. Friends (and cold winter air) have a way of doing that to you; reminding you that however scary and daunting facing the holidays may seem, there is always someone who will hit you with a cold snowball and pull you back to your feet, laughing.
[by Madeline MacLean – Neighbor on 13th St.]