The difficult thing for me to say good-bye to is not the late nights or the pizza or the pitchers of beer, it is the thing I saw on the playing fields. More pointedly, it was the post-game signs on the body of N's friend, a young woman who was on one of the visiting teams at a big ulitimate frisbee weekend tournament. Enhancing the effect is the fact that her whole team, Middlebury's frisbee team, wears a wild array of crazy outfits on the field - sequins, cocktail dresses with flounces, neon body suits - it gives them an added aura of free-spiritedness. Along with her bright garb, N's friend had dirt and grass streaks on her legs, a huge bruise on one ankle, scuffed hands and miscellaneous scrapes and abrasions. I was jealous.
I loved to throw my body into things with abandon when I was young - tree climbing, rock climbing, diving, sprinting, tackling. I often wished I were a boy since it was still looked upon as vaguely unseemly in some circles for a girl to be physically aggressive. When I joined the rugby team in college it satisfied a lifetime of wishing I could bash into people without remonstration. I loved to take flying leaps for a catch or a win, or to avoid an opponent's lunge for a tackle. I can think of no greater moment in my sporting life than one game when I got a ball on the 7 or 8 yard line and sprinted over 90 yards for a try (a rugby goal).
The dirtier and more bruised I was after a game, the prouder I felt of my efforts. A little blood was even better. For someone who spent a lot of childhood wanting to be a boy, it was nice to let loose with a bunch of like-minded spirit filled women.
In a sobering juxtaposition, my mom told me over the phone that she had a little accident on Easter Sunday. She is still active and athletic, but thin and on blood thinners. "Your mother did such a stupid thing," she began light-heartedly, and recounted how she had tripped on a flagstone step after hiding Easter eggs for a hunt at my brother's house. She cheerfully played it down, but it became clear that it was no small thing - couldn't get up for a while, injured knees, hand, shoulder. This in a vibrant woman who has always been, perhaps, even more competitive and sporty than I am.
I had been watching people falling on their faces all day, but falling on your face at 21 and 76 are very different. 49 is different too - somewhere in between, on the way from here to there. The capacity of these machines we walk around in changes over time, and we have to learn how to maximize lifetime performance.
As the body ages, caution and self-preservation and foresight all kick in. Since I don't like taking 9 weeks off for a back injury, and I don't heal as quickly as I once did, reckless abandon is a thing of my past. Good practice for when I'm 76.
However, it's still a kick to watch it played out in the young.