My first real soccer shirt was a yellow, short-sleeved shirt with a small crest on the chest, with a stylized G in the middle of it. G for Gnistan, or “spark”. The day I got my first real soccer shirt was the biggest day of my life, until I got my first real hockey sweater.
The hockey sweater was dark green and had the word “KERHO” – “club” in Finnish – diagonally across the chest.
And the year after that, I got a sweater with real advertisement on it, a career highlight.
I know it’s that real outfit that makes everything better. That real sweater, shirt, real pants, real shoes, they turn a hobby into a step on a career path. It’s the outfit that makes the little boys and girls look exactly like the big boys and girls which is what they want. They want to be the real thing.
Son had his a speed skating race last weekend, the second one in his short career. In the first one, he wore just regular sweat pants, and a jacket, and a ski mask turned into a hat. He did fine, although he fell in the last curve, and lost a few seconds, but he didn’t seem to care, either way.
He’s not much of a competitor – he likes to win, though – so when I told him that there was going to another race the following weekend, he just nodded and said, “fine”, in the same tone he says “fine” when I ask him how his day at school was. Not too thrilled, that is.
He got a little more excited at his next practice when he got a medal for his participation in the first race. He made some space on a shelf, and, optimistically, left room for more medals.
But then, at his next practice, he got a real skating suit, a red, white and blue suit, the kind that made him look like a Young Superman, had he worn his underwear over it. Right away, the suit made his stride a little better, his glide a little longer, and his starts a little more explosive.
Now, kids are naturally cute creatures, and they can pull of things that most adults can’t. Things that are fine and cute with a kid, sometimes become creepy and weird when adults do it.
I will never forget the three Leksand fans welcoming Hockey Hall of Famer Ed Belfour to Sweden, wearing their all-too-big Leksand jerseys and hats at the Stockholm airport. Three kids welcoming him there, singing in sweaters that hang down below their knees? Cute. Those three?
Not quite as much.
After Son’s races – he even grabbed a heat victory this time – I was sitting on the bench, talking to another father, who doubled as a team leader at the event. He had been out on the ice in his speed skating skates, when I – and my hockey skates – had been thrown out, and got yelled at.
“What kind of skates are those?” I asked him, to make conversation, and pointed at this skates on the floor.
“Oh, just regular racing skates,” he said.
“Yeah, my wife and I race in the oldtimers’ class.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Hey, you can skate, you should race, too. Just try out the other skates, we’ll have races here on Wednesdays. You should do it,” he said.
“We’ll see,” I said. “Maybe.”
But as I said that, I already knew that I’m probably not going to do it because as soon as he had told me to race, the first image that went through my mind was me trying to get into one of those red, white, and blue speed skating suits.
And it wasn’t pretty.