My husband has had the same Alabama football season tickets since he was a wee lad of 13, making this his 25th anniversary to sit his butt in that same spot on that same bench every fall. It became a necessary relational hurdle for me to learn to enjoy/tolerate (depending on the day) the sport and the all-day affair that was tailgating in order for our romance to blossom. I became his football companion when he was 23 and I was 17, making this year my butt’s 15th anniversary on my spot on the bench, so apparently I passed the test.
And I remember that test well.
It was The Iron Bowl of 2000, shortly after Chris and I got engaged. It had been a particularly frigid November, and Saturday’s forecast was a mix of rain and sleet.
It was the first Iron Bowl I had attended (Alabama versus Auburn and THE most important game of the year, for those of you not from around here), and the game was at night.
The temperature creeped above freezing half an hour before the game, allowing it to dump a good bit of nearly frozen rain on us, soaking our clothing beyond repair. I get cold if I get rained on in a 90-degreed-July day, so getting doused in 33 degree precipitation was something I didn’t even know I could live through.
Then the temperature dropped below freezing again and the sleet began to coat over our dripping clothes, adding a crunchy texture to the already-torturous situation.
I assumed that surely we would not sit through a game in such untenable conditions. Surely we would leave early. Surely they would cancel the game. Surely there was some sort of multi-million dollar retractable stadium roof for such a hell as this.
But no. It was The Iron Bowl, and one does not leave The Iron Bowl. We sat, wet and icicled, and endured the torment of being sleeted upon.
I hunched my back as far as it would go, looked down the entire game, and nearly died that night.
Did I mention that we lost? NINE TO ZERO.
Because there’s nothing that can improve the mood of the frozen fan like a bone-crushing defeat.
I was entirely angry at my normally above-average sweet-and-doting fiancé, but it was an important lesson in expectations with regards to the realm of football. A lesson from which our marriage certainly benefited.
I married that guy anyway, and six years later, we had a kid.
We realized quickly that infants are complicated enough on their own merit, so Ali’s introduction to the family tradition didn’t happen until 2008, at the ripe age of 20 months.
It was even more challenging that we expected.
There are naps. Feedings. Dirty Diapers. A constant need for entertainment and protection from running into the street. A vigilant eye so as to not get lost in the more than 100,000 people all dressed in exactly the same colors – trying to spot anyone on gameday in Tuscaloosa is like Where’s Waldo for Mensa members.
In 2009, at the mature age of two and a half, it was better.
She was a little more self-sustaining, although the need for entertainment was still ever-present, and I fought hard to make naptime happen – even while tailgating.
After all, naptimes are for Mommies.
(If I ever write a book, that will be the title.)
It should also be noted that things you would think would be thrilling for a nearly three year old are actually terrifying.
(Which makes them kinda more fun for parents.)
In 2010 we had an almost-four year old. She could go without naps if needed (although Mommies never quit needing naptime – there’s my sequel), and was much more self-entertaining, considering she had to hang out all day long under a football tent.
…but by then, another addition was imminent. You can’t see him in this picture, but he was there. Waiting for football season to end so that he could make his appearance.
Which brings us to 2011.
Ali was fully and beautifully self-propelled by then – an expert nut-collector,
And literary British-Waif wannabe.
But the addition.
Oh, the addition. We were back to the need for naps, nursing, poop disposal systems, and motherly exhaustion. And by this time, my quiet-room-naptime-options had been stripped from me due to a need for greater campus security, thanks to dishonorable and perhaps not-so-sober tailgaters.
I did miss naptime. Tremendously. But I tried my best to hide it for photographs, anyway.
In 2012, we upgraded “High-Maintenance Baby” to “Nearly Two-Year-Old Boy Who Made us Jettison our Morals and Buy a Leash to Keep From Losing Him in the Throngs of Identically Dressed Fans.”
And naptime was…still a need. For everyone.
(Except Ali, who had by now mastered the art of Dirt Bathing.)
With 2013 came even older children,
With slightly more concentration – both pre-game and in the game.
…But we still smiled with relief when we left the children behind and attended a game on our own.
The 2014 football season has now arrived. And with it, we have an almost eight-year-old and an almost four-year-old.
They spend their tailgating day making dirt piles,
Then turning them into haboobs,
Digging for breathtaking and one-of-a-kind buried treasure,
And if they get tired, they simply lie down.
Whether in tailgate or in bleachers.
They even pose for selfies. VOLUNTARILY.
But you’ll always be able to find it in my eyes after a long day of tailgating and football – Mommies never quit needing naptimes.