Last week I promised that the next post (i.e., THIS one) would be about lifestyle changes I have been working on post-Australia and what I hope my future holds. That’s not happening today. I’ve wanted to begin that series for weeks now, but every time I begin, I freeze. I’ve written several outlines and even started drafting a post, but it’s just not working. So until that story is ready to be told, I’ll continue sharing others. Like you thought I wouldn’t.
This post is the first in a new series (which I just thought of today!) called “There’s No Place Like _______”. I will highlight places that give me a sense of “home” and I’m excited about seeing where it may go. So let’s get started.
Dorothy famously said “There’s no place like home”. While I typically agree, since 2006 I’ve also thought “there’s no place like Oz”. No, not Dorothy’s Oz but the nickname for Australia. I believed it so much it served as the inspiration for the name of this blog! And after living in Oz for a year, I’ve fallen even more in love with its people, culture, food, and lifestyle.
Since returning to the US four months ago, home hasn’t really felt like, well, HOME. Friends and family are here. My church is here. My alma mater is here. Fifteen years of memories are wrapped up in this place. But at best, I’ve felt a true sense of being home in fleeting moments. How unsettling when home doesn’t give you the grounding and center you expect it to offer.
This past weekend, I had a glimpse of “home”. I attended my first college football game since November 2009, and a day spent eating, yelling, singing, and cheering with thousands of other people made Charlottesville feel like the place it used to be, even if only for a few hours.
How can football play such a significant part of my life?
Nature + Nuture
There’s no “nature versus nurture” debate here — they’re both HUGE factors in why I love sports, especially college football.
— I’m the first born. My dad loves sports. So he raised me to love sports and it was pretty easy to do, as I guess he passed on the sports-loving genes. As soon as I could hold a plastic bat in my hands, he was pitching a plastic ball to me.
— When my parents thought I was old enough to appreciate going to games, I went. I made posters, shook pom poms, and yelled like a champ.
— We went to one or two college football games every year growing up, even though we lived in North Carolina (our team of choice is in Virginia) for most of my childhood. I’m no stranger to sitting in enemy territory at an unfriendly stadium.
— My dad’s job just happened to move us to Charlottesville when I was in high school. It just to happens that the college I most wanted to attend is also in Charlottesville and that it’s home to the university team we had supported for years. I applied, was accepted, and attended. WIN.
— After I graduated we continued going to games as season ticket holders, and we continue to this day.
This past weekend, I stepped into familiar territory and relived an experience that’s meant so much to me over the years. I wore the school colors. I contributed a dessert to the tailgate. I entered the stadium 45 minutes before game time to soak up the pre-game atmosphere with friends and family. I cheered when the marching band began playing, grew even louder when the team ran onto the field, and sang the Good Old Song every time we scored.
For the record, I’m not the only one who sings when we score! Whether it’s a field goal or touchdown, the entire crowd links arms, sways, and sings each time we add points to the board.
Half the fun of football is the pre (and/or post) game tailgate. You prepare food and drink, pack it up, drive to the stadium, park, and set up your spread! These have become quite elaborate over the years.
In addition, cornhole has become a tailgating staple. You toss a bean bag at a wooden board and hope you can land your bag on the board (or directly in a hole in the board). I usually let others play the games but dad somehow talked me into playing this past Saturday.
To top it all off, we WON the game. Granted, we were playing an opponent we should beat, but that hasn’t meant a whole lot in recent years O:-)
I’m looking forward to a fall (favorite season!) full of college football and a handful of home football games. The smells and colors of autumn coupled with the group energy and fanfare of a sporting event may be just what I need to begin finding “home” at home again.
Featured image via creative commons.