As I posted yesterday, I took two out of three cherubs to Steelers training camp. While I was probably more excited than they were, the realization of the world that comes with adulthood hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought the magic was gone.
Our experience started off great. Though it was a little too humid for my taste, the weather was cooperating. We walked from the parking area behind the dorms on the hill that overlook Chuck Noll Field. Each step heightened our excitement.
The Steelers have a very family-oriented type of training camp. They have what is called The Steeler Experience, and, free of charge, kids can enjoy activities ranging from testing your throwing accuracy to jumping on the inflatable moonwalk. Airbrush tattoos, seeing an exact replica of a locker room space, and having your picture taken behind a life-size Steelers uniform are also some of the things available.
Before going to The Steeler Experience, we happened upon the autograph waiting area. Players normally wait until after practice to sign autographs, and it isn't mandatory they do so. First autograph: Steely McBeam, the Steelers' mascot. Not exactly the autograph I was looking for, but Cheyenne (my 9-year-old daughter) REALLY got into the mojo of training camp right away. Following closely behind Steely was FS Ryan Clark (#25). He was absolutely wonderful about an autograph. Of course, I always had my kids thank them. Ryan signed A LOT of autographs in the time he had leading up to practice.
We headed over to The Steeler Experience to appease the little diva. Much to my surprise, Noah (my 14-year-old) was starting to realize the magic. He relished testing his football skills, and even helped Cheyenne work on hers. My first thought? These aren't the same children I came with. There was no bickering, no snide remarks, and I could almost hear "Kumbaya" playing. Nothing but peace and love.
Our next stop was to the merchandise store. Noah wanted (are you ready for this?) a foam finger. Not wanting to discourage his budding interest in the experience of training camp, I agreed. Then, he wanted to get one for Cheyenne. Okay. Next, Daddy, Grandma, and Pap all needed SOMETHING Steelers. Thinking of others...this is good. Okay. I spent a small fortune before we left the store. Of course, Mommy needed a new Steeler purse... (only my 4th one; yes, they're all different). Back to camp.
Along the way, we ran into Steely again [I swear he's like herpes; you never get rid of him.], and Cheyenne asked for a picture with Steely and her brother. Picture taken despite a miniscule amount of protesting from Noah because he was afraid of looking "uncool."
The whole time, I'm snapping pictures. Then, it was time. The players were about to exit the athletic building and walk to the field. We jockeyed for position to get a good view of the players as they descended the steps leading to the field. Using a complex mathematical formula to calculate the slope of the hill, the position of the sun, and wind speed [Not really; just sounded good.], we found our place. It was perfect.
The players made the walk to the practice field amidst cheers and applause. At some time during this, the magic started. Noah said not one word; he was in awe. Cheyenne cheered and clapped, but she was holding something back. When Ben Roethlisberger came into view, she went wild. Yes, it was a clean kiddie version of "Girls Gone Wild." No longer containing her excitement, she screamed, "I love you, Ben!" Priceless. Dream number one realized.
About an hour and a half before practice was to end, we decided to stake our claim on a position against the fence to await post-practice autograph hounding while the skies darkened. Anyone who has been to training camp knows that you don't wait until practice is over before getting your spot because you won't get one. This is when my dream of the perfect day started to disappear.
It will never cease to amaze me the grown men who will shove a kid out of the way just to have their football signed so they can sell it on ebay. Un-frickin'-real. This massive, smelly, turd of a piece of white trash decided he was going to stand next to Cheyenne and Noah...at first. Slowly but surely, Cheyenne got squeezed out from against the fence. She came to me half-crying. The prick acted like he was an expert, correcting comments from people around him having conversations with each other. Then, he had the BALLS to ask me for a cig. Being nice and thinking if I could lure him away Cheyenne could get her place back, I said, "Sure!" Wouldn't you know the SOB went right back when he was done and put his stinky ass up against my daughter??? C'mon kids...new spot.
By this time, the heavens had opened up. Never fear, dear reader...Mom came prepared. We donned our emergency rain ponchos and waited for practice to end. Spying another opening down the fence from Sphincter Boy, Noah made his move. All of a sudden, I hear this screeching coming from the woman next to him.
"My sons are in the bathroom, and this is THEIR spot!" Having been taught to respect adults, Noah apologized and left. Did you know that when a mother's instinct goes into overdrive things get ugly? I marched right up to this snob and her evil spawn (They returned just in time for the festivities about to take place.) and told her how rude I thought she was in talking to Noah that way. She started with the "My kids" spiel, and my mouth started running away from my brain. Noah later told me he was wishing I'd have popped her a good one. A good samaritan, who had witnessed this whole incident, offered their spot to my kids. Faith in humanity restored. We chatted while we waited. Life was good.
Practice ended at its scheduled time despite the torrential downpour we were now in the middle of. Here come the players. Blank note cards? Check. Sharpie? Check. We're ready. Then, the crash. Two players signed minimal autographs. Alex Stepanovich, a backup center, and Piotr Czech, a kicker, started signing in the rain while the rest of the team walked by. Unfortunately, Alex was stopped by Medusa and her imps. They must have had him sign at least ten items. Guess what? That was the end of his autographing. And Piotr? Maybe three autographs to three lucky fans. My kids and I shared our disappointment.
We started the approximately one-half mile walk back to the car. Then, the magic returned.
Despite torrents running through our route and rain pelting our ponchos so hard we had a hard time hearing each other, our disappointment soon turned to glee. Puddle jumping became our pastime. Not trying to jump OVER the puddles, but jumping directly INTO the puddles for the whole walk. We pretty much had a contest to see who could get the muddiest and the most wet. There was no clear winner. The sound of my children's laughs and their delight in seeing Mom make the biggest splashes was pure sunshine on a dreary afternoon.
Soaking wet and filthy, we finally made it back to the car. This is when my entire day was made perfect.
Cheyenne immediately got into the car, but Noah lingered outside with me for a moment. He comes over, puts an arm around my shoulders, and says, "We made some great memories today." Dream number two realized.
To Noah and Cheyenne: Thanks for the wonderful memories. I love you both with all my heart and soul. -- Mom