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. []