Living Vicariously … and Loving it Vividly
It’s Holland vs. Mexico tonight and the evening will live forever in my kids’ memories … if I occasionally have to remind them.
It’s Holland against Mexico tonight in the first round of playoffs in the World Cup. I’m in Ireland heading to a wedding where the welcome drink starts at 5 PM … the same time the game does. I don’t know how many Dutch (or for that matter, Mexicans) are in the wedding party, but I have a feeling that we’re going to get outvoted as to what to do for Group Activities at 5:45. We can watch the match as a group! We can create group cheers! OK, maybe I’ve been in Holland too long and I’m caught up in the spirit. That’s a good thing, right!? OK, I’ll give in to the groom, who is a dear friend. Which is where I come back to what my two sons are doing as of today.
They’re being dropped off in some tiny village in the north of Holland for a week of sailing camp. Oma and a cousin are bringing them and then they’re on their own with another maybe 50 other Dutch girls and boys (aging from 8 to 14). It’s my 10-year old’s third year of sail camp, but the first for my 8-year old. I’m giddy, nervous, proud, and envious. I’m jealous and wish I were there—both as a parent to see how my kids do and/or as a little boy with an exciting week ahead of him.
They are both extremely into the World Cup and are fully equipped for the game with the latest in Dutch jerseys. The know the players pretty well and even know what professional teams they play for. They calculate who will play whom if Holland wins.
I know nothing of what will transpire tonight, but let us use our imagination to envision the evening.
50-or-so kids all in orange hats, scarves, shirts and probably even shorts and socks. There are flags strung up in the rafters and they’re serving frites, mayonaise and maybe some speculaas cookies and Gouda cubes of lekker cheese. Most kids will be into it, maybe a handful not so much, but if they’re Dutch, they’re pretty much into it … by law. The country is in a frenzy and this is day one of a week of camp of learning how to sail in what many Dutch kids do almost as naturally as they ride bikes. It’s something of a rite of passage from boyhood into acquiring skills that will be engrained in them until they’re gray haired smoking a pipe while puttering along in a sailboat somewhere in the flats of Holland.
I’m predicting a 3-1 win for the Dutch. The kids will go nuts with every goal, foul, and yellow card. My boys will make instant friends when they high five and fist bump with what were seconds previous complete strangers. Friendships that might last another 45 minutes of the second half or 45 years, who’s to know—or care at this point. They’re all friends for these minutes, no matter how the week goes and if clicks are formed and younger and older kids separate. But for 90 minutes, they’re all Dutch and they’re all on the same side of the screen. My boys are in the middle of it and as part of it as any of them, even if they live 5,000 plus miles away. Holland scores late in the game as the Mexicans get tired and the pressure has built up around the world and in the high-ceilinged barn in the tiny village nestled in the waterways of northern Holland.
The game ends with a collective sigh of relief as we move onto the next round. Kids don’t want to go to sleep, but there’s a busy week of knots, masts, and starboard ahead that they need to gather energy for. They know a few of the boys better because they sat next to them on the floor watching the game. They might not know their names, but tomorrow they can recap the game and reenact the header that put the Dutch ahead.
I know my 10-year old will go to sleep quickly as he needs his sleep and he knows it. My 8-year old will probably chitter chat with others in the 6-person dorm room until they’re all asleep. Then he’ll still have a slight smile on his face because he’s just generally happy. Finally, as he replays that header one more time in his head, his eyelids get heavy and fall and his day is over, the week is just beginning, and his life is my passion, my pride, and, vicariously, my own.