Hockey Bag of Memories


The New Year has seen one transformation: I have become a full-on “hockey Dad.”

(Though perhaps with a bit of a twist: I take my kid not in a minivan but on the streetcar to practices and games, with his giant duffel bag full of equipment.)

Does this mean I’ve given up on my hopes and dreams for myself? Does this mean I live vicariously only through my children?

No! Well, hockey-wise, yes. I will never play NHL hockey. I was never going to play NHL hockey. In this knowledge, I am calm and firm.

But I, a man no longer in his twenties or even his thirties, still entertain hopes and dreams for the future. Is that sad? Is that pathetic?

I can’t decide which is more tragic: a man in his forties still dreaming of big changes in the future, or one who doesn’t.

In any case, I’m a Capricorn. (Yes, I just had a birthday, hence the tone of these thoughts, probably.) We never give up. Like the goat which is the emblem of our star-sign, we pick our way through the rubble to the top of the mountain. If we have to eat grass, or even tin cans, on the way, so be it.

I can’t give up. And I can’t go back. So there’s only one choice: forward.

But we bear the past in mind as we move through time, right, my little bloggies?

Now, here’s an extremely odd tidbit for your…derrieres, dearest bloggies. I noticed every time J.J. changes into his hockey gear, a strange melancholy comes over me.

Why? I finally figured it out. His hockey bag, the duffel bag containing all his hockey equipment, is the same bag I used to leave my old live-in girlfriend Leah, the girl I lived with in New York.

It’s her bag, in fact. I should have given it back to her. I still should. But I never have, and I never will. Into that bag I, at age 28, stuffed most of my earthly possessions (the rest were in a backpack) and to her bid adieu forever.

A horribly sad moment for me. I mean, I knew it had to happen. But we had once been best friends. Once we thought we were going to get married.

But what can you do? The chemistry wasn’t there. And without chemistry you got zilch, bupkes. Right, bloggies? I was tempted to compromise. I mean, we lived together a year and a half. I loved her, just not the right way. She was my best friend, my confidante, my other half. To her I said whatever popped into my head. Talking to her was like talking to myself. So what if sex is a bit of a chore? That might change over time.

But I’m glad, now, I didn’t compromise. We would probably be divorced by now, maybe with kids, bad idea. Now she’s got two kids by some other guy, a guy named Bob, and she’s much better off (though she’s not sending me any thank you notes—she doesn’t talk to me: she reviewed my first book, for the Chicago Tribune: not a favorable review, though she struggled to be objective; she mostly reviewed our relationship).
Me, after numerous romantic misadventures, I met the divine supergoddess Pam, a woman who is not only my pal in the same way Leah was, but also pushes all my buttons, um, physically (yeah, baby!).

So I’m going to keep the bag. I’m glad I’ve got the bag. It’s a reminder to me that sometimes the path of most resistance is the way to go (it would have been easier to stay in that apartment, get married, figure out we had problems after the fact). And it’s a reminder things weren’t always set in stone. Now, if you saw me, banging on the glass, shouting at my kid “Attaboy, J.J.! Skate! Skate!” you’d probably think “typical hockey dad,” and it would all seem foreordained, carved in stone.

Which is how is sometimes seems to me (and to Pam, who claims it was no less an agent than Fate that brought us together; little did she know it was actually a diabolically clever Bachelor Campaign with me as the puppet-master, pulling strings, employing half the city as my undercover agents).

But there was a time, sitting in a taxi, tears in my eyes, that same duffel bag on the seat next to me, heading for JFK airport, when the future seemed very uncertain indeed.