This exquisite, unrepeatable moment

 

 

Driving Alex and his mates to Adelaide Oval last Sunday I’m reminded of the final line from 1986’s coming-of-age film, Stand by Me, in which the narrator ponders his distant childhood with affection and melancholy:

 

”I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

 

We’re heading to see Glenelg contest its first SANFL final since these boys were toddlers. I’m keen for the Tigers to secure a spot in the Grand Final, but by sunset I’ll have learnt, all over again, that at best, football should only be a happy distraction.

 

It’s an archetypal early spring day: fluctuating between encouraging sun, blustery breeze, and quick showers. On our way to Hindley Street the car radio’s on. As it better matches where these boys are at, I’ve changed stations from Triple J to commercial pop music. The songs seem immediate and disposable, but my passengers are more interested in rapid chat about teachers; food both healthy and not; exotic classmates; a recent school camp in the Adelaide Hills.

 

We see the fourth quarter of the Norwood and Crows match. Despite a spirited finish by the Redlegs, the tricolour interlopers advance to the Preliminary Final. Sitting in front of the Sir Edwin Smith Stand, of course, the boys spear straight down to the fence, so they can get as close as possible to the action, although for most of the afternoon they enthusiastically ignore the footy.

 

They eat. They chat. They laugh. They do whole mobs of stuff except watch the action.

 

For them, footy is mere situational context; Aristotelian theatre of minor consequence; a fuzzy backdrop to their endless, summery banter.

 

Glenelg and Port is pulsating. The Magpies are taller, bigger and dominate aerially, but the Bays appear to quicken as the shadows lengthen. The boys’ chat continues.

 

“Our grade five camp had way better food! Don’t you think, Ty?”

 

“I met Steve Smith at the Cricket Warehouse when I was six. Mum let me have the day off school.”

 

“Jacob, are you going to do karate next year?”

 

I love the easy egalitarianism among them. Each takes his turn, enjoys his moments in the sun, is allowed his voice. There’s no clear pecking order or obvious Alpha male. There’s esprit de corps.

 

It’s gladdening.

 

At half time they dash behind the stand onto the lawns for some kick-to-kick while I watch their black backpacks, bursting with snacks as we arrived, and now mostly empty like deflated tyres.

 

Stretching my legs, too, I wander down to the ornamental grass. There’s an irresistible puddle. The boys are bunched by the statue of ‘Boof’ Lehmann while Alex skims his footy through the water and at them, again and again while they squirm and shriek. However, they’re wet and it’s fresh so I ask them to stop. They do. Maybe I should’ve left them to it. ‘Boof’ is spared further drenching.

 

In the gathering gloom (literal and metaphorical; tending towards pathetic fallacy), Port win by four points over a fast-finishing Glenelg. The boys exclaim their vague despair but it’s vaporised before we exit the Southern Plaza and their natural natter then pings about, as it should. We cross the footbridge.

 

With my headlights cutting through the murk, I again steer along Anzac Highway and think of Stand by Me. Alex and these mates will have next year in their snug, neighbourhood primary school and then move on. They’ll likely attend different high schools. Maybe their bond will endure, maybe not.

 

But, for the moment, this exquisite, unrepeatable moment, Alex and his eleven-year-old friends, bouncing between childhood and adolescence, are deep in the greatest of simple gifts: each other.

 

 

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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. Mickey, what a beauty! Brings back lots of memories and showcases life’s beautiful moments. He’s now in the second half of his 30s, but I still love going to the footy or the cricket with my son.

  2. Terrific Mickey. Those moments don’t need to last long to have an impact. Delightful read.

  3. Beautifully observed.

    Seeing it here too. Theo and his mate Laz going down to the CERES dam on their bikes to catch mosquito fish.

  4. That’s the essay I want to read to start my day! I was there with you, my memory flickering to younger days.

    Great stuff MR

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You’ve captured the spirit of 1972 for me there Mickey. Thanks.

  6. Love your work, Mickey. You took much more out of Sunday than I did. It’s a great age for boys, I’d be happy for time to slow just a bit around now.

  7. Can’t remember many games from Thebby in the 60’s. But I have vivid memories of Nan’s mouth and her threatening umbrella. No wonder she had to go to Mass the next day. Footy is a clan gathering briefly disrupted by the players. Played MR.

  8. Love it Mickey.
    Love it all.

    “Maybe I should’ve left them to it” rings a Swiss cattle bell to me.

  9. Superb Mickey you and the lads certainly enjoyed,Sunday more than me

  10. Thanks everyone for reading and offering your thoughts. I’m sure the buzz of writing, sharing and receiving favourable feedback on this site will never fade for me. Someone close to me noted of the Almanac community: “What a supportive and collegiate bunch.”

  11. Colin Ritchie says

    Great read Mickey. Interestingly, I have two sons and two daughters; (between the ages of 33 – 43) the girls love going to the footy and cricket with me, the boys have no interest in sport except for motorbikes and cars, of which I have no interest. Maybe I tried too hard with the boys when they were young but the girls from a very young age couldn’t get enough footy or cricket.

  12. Treasure those moments Mickey – they grow up so quickly!

  13. Thanks Colin. Despite our most earnest and brave wishes kids will take their own paths. I’m with you on cars and motorbikes, but wouldn’t mind owning an EH one day!

    I’m sure every parent ever is equally astonished, Stainless.

    Thanks, chaps.

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