I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
Yesterday another soccer mom bestowed what I consider one of the highest compliments she could pay on Finley.
We were sitting at an outdoor game on beautiful sunny spring day. It’s that point in spring when everything is green, but before the bugs take over. The trees are just starting to leaf out. The grass has been mowed once, if that. Dandelions are smiling their sunny weedy faces. The clouds are cotton-balls dotting the blue canvas of sky.
She is one of those people who talks non-stop — which is fine, if you like listening non-stop. Usually I can’t do it. I sit away from the others moms, and I’m sure they think I am quite the snob. I just feel like I’m on word-overload after listening to all their conversations.
And I rarely join in. My hearing is going and it takes a lot of effort to track all the talk. I’m always afraid that what I say won’t make sense. It’s like my mother with Alzheimer’s — smiling and nodding like I know what’s going on, but really not.
Bobby set my chair on the grass at the mid-line. The other parents were down the way. I was alone. Perfect. When this mom came, though, she placed her chair right next to me. It was a friendly gesture, and I appreciate it, but I knew that I would need pay attention to her, too, and my stomach started to knot. Bobby abandoned me to talk with some of the dads.
She’s a nice lady. Really. I think she wanted to talk to me about Fin, because the first opportunity she had, she started in.
“Finley is an amazing soccer player,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said. “He really enjoys soccer.”
“His foot skills are amazing,” she continued. “Does he practice all the time?”
“Yes, he does. It really bothers me when he juggles the ball in the kitchen,” I told her. That was a true statement. I’m always sure he’s going to land a soccer ball in the macaroni and cheese or something.
“Johnny does, too,” she replied, “but I don’t think he’s as good as Finley.”
“Johnny is a really good player,” I told her. “He handles the ball really well.”
“He always tells me that Fin Langdon is the best soccer player in the area,” she said, “and I agree. He’s pretty amazing.”
I smiled and thanked her.
“I’ll bet he’s smart, too,” she said. “You can tell he’s thinking out there.”
“Well, he did just get inducted into National Honor Society,” I said.
“Yep, I knew it.” She smiled and nodded, like she had just scored.
While all these compliments were nice, they were the kind of thing we heard fairly often about Finley. I’m not trying to brag about him, but he is a good player and a good student. I’m proud of him. What she said next was what I considered the highest compliment.
“He’s a team player, too,” she said, nodding towards the field. “Look at him out there passing the ball to the younger players. He could get past the defenders and take the shot himself, but he doesn’t do that. He’s considerate and not a glory-seeker.”
I warmed inside. Anyone can learn fancy foot skills. Lots of kids are good students. Being a team player – that comes from within.
Years before I had watched Brandon play similarly and my heart would swell with pride. Encouraging the other players, giving them opportunities to run the ball and to score — it was beautiful.
In the end I was glad I sat next to chatty mom. Sometimes we need to hear those encouraging words.