Together on that frosty morning we watched our sons playing for the local Under-12s. We cheered, oohed and ahhed in unison, and rejoiced when our boys’ team won.
‘Thank you,’ she said, at the end of the game. ‘We’re new here. I don’t know anyone. I was really nervous.’
‘No problem; my son’s been playing for a couple of years. See you next week!’
I didn’t let on that I’d been just as nervous despite, or perhaps partly because of, our previous seasons. Elijah, complete with grass-stained knees, joined me and together we walked back to my car, past another group of parents who all avoided my eyes.
I didn’t have Bubonic Plague or two heads, I simply wasn’t part of ‘The Clique’ although I’d shyly tried during previous seasons to be friendly. Eventually I’d given up and subsequently spent Saturday mornings watching from the car. It was warmer in more ways than one.
Fortunately, Elijah was always well received, as was my husband who often volunteered his services to help at training. But over the summer he, along with his alcohol and gambling issues, left our lives and now I felt the pressure to be both mother and father to my four children.
Thus, my decision not to continue sitting in the car even though the absence of a husband made me even less attractive to ‘The Clique’ who all seemed to know each other from the local senior Australian Rules football teams. During the pre-season I’d reasoned there must be others on the outer, hidden in cars like me or hovering on a distant boundary line.
It was brave move for someone who’d always been shy and lacked self-confidence, and even more so in light of my marriage failure. I was terrified of further rejection but my first foray had proved successful and I looked forward to the next game.
I arrived to find my new friend in the midst of the in-crowd. She waved cheerfully but was immediately swallowed up by the captain’s mother. I scanned the sidelines and noted another lonely soul.
Unfortunately, she was a parent from the opposing team and I felt eyes burning into my back. I didn’t care; my self-esteem was scoring more points than the team would all season.
At the end of the season Elijah decided to join his siblings, Jess and Pip at the local gymnastics club, where he was welcomed even though he was a late-starter. He went on to represent Victoria, as did Pip, and Australia.
I know not all football clubs are like that but I felt I’d come home at our gym and never forgot to watch for anyone on the outskirts.
Then, a newcomer arrived a couple of years later…but that’s another story!