At Play in the Soccer Fields of Elkin

6 Oct 2012: 5pm est
Elkin, NC

It is early Saturday (5:30am) morning and the fog can be described as Oregonianly-coastal thick or—as I am learning around here—opaquely smokey and Appalachian: mountain fog so thick that it wipes clean the world. Even in the pre-dawn dark, the fog is white and displaces the night so entirely that it’s like looking at a negative image of the nighttime, everything white except for objects, now composed of just shadows, existing disconnected from everything, just floating by you. I am slowly, very slowly jogging1 with the dog because I am trying to lose weight and you have to start somewhere. The dog is out a few feet ahead of me but appears suspended mid-fog.

We enter the city park and start slogging on the track. The dog weaves from side to side on the track, head down, smelling out the track’s passages. The dog enjoys these early outings while I constantly reign in and play out the leash in order to give wide berth to the oncoming runners who have been up much earlier than us, wearing their runner’s face with its hard inward gaze.

We finally circle the kiddie-soccer field, barely discernable from the rest of dark park except for the soccer goals, where later it will be bright and noisy and some what packed with adults and kids and the voices of mostly, adult men exhorting their kids to look at the ball or to get in there, to get into the scrum that kiddie soccer tends to devolve into and instead of interlocking heads and arms, they interlock legs and feet and if it lasts for more than a few seconds then at least two players will topple and then be lightly trampled by the rest of both teams still trying to get at the ball.

The kids on the team are without exception all good kids; they will try to do their best at whatever you are asking/telling/yelling them to, even if they have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. They will nod and then run as instructed, faithfully charging the Maginot line. However, it is getting clearer from week to week that the kids are getting it and once in a while (maybe once a game) you will see a pass from one player to another, premeditated and then executed that ends up being a goal. It is also exceedingly clear that when you mix 4–6 year olds on the same team, the five and older set will bounce the four-year olds off each other, scattering them like a remorseless pool shark breaking a racked set. Even the difference between a four and five-year old is like watching Bambi playing rugby with adult elephants.

It also shows just how fast these kids are growing and learning not just season to season but week to week: the inconsolable four-year old who can not understand why she can not score a goal will in the next season be the appointed tank that goes through the other team with a mindful intensity of the best pros. Scarlett2 right now is that four-year old and she does in fact mind every bit when she gets knocked down or pushed over, and has attempted to stomp off the field in protest, yet the other girl on our team (who is five) probably generated accusations of being a ringer after she scored off a goal kick, that is she kicked the ball from one end of the field to the other and scored; audible gasps of surprise were heard from the sidelines of stunned parents and onlookers.

  1. slogging is what i am doing []
  2. Mac right now is not playing. He has a cold and has been explaining the germ theory of disease to the other kids so that they know he is not playing because he doesn’t want the kids to get germs off the soccer ball if he should kick it. []