Soccer Mom No More

Another milestone has passed. My youngest played in her last soccer game yesterday, a “friendly game” with teams composed of the seniors in the league. As it turned out, her team won – three times. This particular group of kids had no desire to see the end of the season, so after the team won in regular time, they played a “winner take all” overtime: 5 minutes, sudden death. Since they still hadn’t had enough, they then proceeded to penalty kicks, with each player taking a kick.

I have been a “soccer mom” for the past 15 or so years, since my second child came home from school with a piece of paper and declared that she wanted to play soccer. She had been kicking a ball around the playground at recess and wanted to be on a team. In the area we live in, soccer is commonplace. Where I grew up, soccer was virtually unheard of. I first encountered the game when I was in sixth grade and my small school got a “real” gym teacher (rather than the parent volunteers we had teaching us before). I quickly decided I liked the game, but played only in gym class. (These were the days that girl sports were limited – largely to basketball and cheerleading.)

Back to 1999 – the soccer sign ups were in the cafeteria of one of the local schools. We walked in, got a form to fill out and waited in line to turn it in. When we finally got to the front of the line, I was asked how I wanted to help. They really needed coaches. Really? Me? Coach a competitive team? I claimed lack of experience. Didn’t matter – how about assistant coaching? I was trapped and agreed.

Fortunately, that year all I needed to really do was to be a warm body to help corral 15 or so third grade girls. The following year, I was paired up with a great coach who was very good at mentoring and spent most of the season telling me I could be a head coach. Before I knew it, I became an assistant coach for my son’s team as well (I showed up to one of his games wearing my coaching shirt and they quickly asked me to fill in for a game the head coach could not make). Since my daughter’s team was older (and parents were getting more competitive), the following year, I stayed with the younger kids and then moved on to coach my youngest for her first couple years as well.

Coaching ended up being challenging, but very rewarding. Trying to convince four and five year olds to take turns and follow rules takes a lot of patience and a great sense of humor. Since my husband was already coaching two baseball/softball teams, I also took on T-ball and softball, which I loved as a kid, but played only in the street (at the time, Little League was still a boys club). Like soccer, it was fun when they were little, but as they got older, the parents sometimes created stress and I relinquished coaching responsibilities to those more experienced and chose areas more suited to my skills to volunteer my time.

It has been more than 10 years since I coached, but I have spent just about every Saturday from Labor Day through Thanksgiving on the soccer field, watching, cheering, and trying to stay warm (and/or dry). Some days we had four games to watch. In recent years, we had two kids on the same team and sometimes another on the sidelines, coaching. Fall weekends have been full, for the most part making one or more trips to and from the soccer fields. What will we do next year?

Although I have loved watching these games, I do have some ideas: leaf peeping, wine tours, road trips, fall festivals… Knowing our kids, though, our soccer days may not be completely over; we may boomerang back to the soccer field, to watch them coach.

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Family Historian

This is a role I have taken on in our family. It can be an overwhelming task, but is one I greatly enjoy. I have the family tree records and have been the happy recipient of various documents, photos and mementos.

This is a natural progression for me. My calendar has always been full and has been a resource to go back to when trying to decipher where and when things may have occurred. I have thousands of family photos (only counting the ones taken by me) and am usually the one people go to when they need a person, date or event identified. Birthdays and other significant dates stick in my head (again, I am the phone-a-friend when that information is required).

My dad’s family does not have much history here in the US. His father came to America as a child and his mother died young, so I have had little to go on in the way of family lore. Since I am a little intimidated by researching in Italy, and my mom’s (very colorful) family has provided a vast amount of lore, I have focused mainly on her branch.

My mom’s family of course, has to be difficult. Besides the fact that they were very big on nicknames (my dad thought she had about a dozen uncles instead of three), I have gone back a few generations and have not found an uncommon name anywhere! This is the family of Hopkins, Thomas, Robinson, Hall and (heaven help me) Smith! Now many of these names have a certain prestige and go way, way, way back in US history, but are those people, MY people? I recently came across a Facebook page that gave me some valuable information. As it turns out, the PA death certificates just went live online last month. AND, they are free to access for PA residents. This of course meant that I got lost in history, and managed to find quite a few death certificates for my family members, enabling me to fill in many dates and names in the tree.

Then there is the mystery of my great grandmother, who was born in Indian Territory, Oklahoma. I recently got a few leads to follow, but it looks like the circumstances of her birth are going to stay a mystery for now. On another line, I may have found roots going back to 1850, though I need to find a 1939 obituary to prove that I have the right family. (The common names make this part difficult.) Unless one of my new Facebook acquaintances is able to help, I think this will have to wait until I can make a trip to those local offices and/or cemetery to find out more.

It has actually been several years since I have actively been researching the family tree. In that time, much more has become available online, but there is still much that requires a trip to a town or county office, a library or historical society. For the most part, family groups tended to stay in the same area, so one trip has the potential to accomplish a lot. Then you have the traveler, like my elusive ancestor whose obituary I am now seeking. He was born in NJ, moved to Scranton, back to NJ, to areas northwest of Scranton. He held a variety of jobs: laborer, miner, fireman, silk worker. What took him to these places? I keep asking the same question of the ancestors who traveled to Oklahoma.

For some people, a list of names and dates is enough. Me, I want their stories too. Piecing them together is a challenge, but also a lot of fun. I am learning about history, not just my family’s but also that of the towns they lived in. I had no idea that the Choctaw’s leased land for mining, or even that Oklahoma had coal mines. I am learning more about coal mining in general, it being a rather popular occupation among my ancestors. All of my answers lead to more questions. I may sound like a small child, but why? How? Why did they move there? Why did they move back? How did they travel? What were their everyday lives like? I can get some of these answers, but for most I’ll have to speculate. Since I keep getting sidetracked by these questions, this is one task I expect to never fully complete, but that’s okay, the fun is in the hunt.