Three years ago, a friend of mine called and asked if my oldest son wanted to sign up to play football with her son. I tagged along to the first practice, and my autumns have never been the same since.
Ibecame a football parent.
Now with two future NFL players in the house, my evenings are booked through November with practices for the game, meetings about the game and pep rallies for the game.
Weekends are devoted to the games -- either preparing for them, cheering at them or reliving them adnauseam at Sunday dinner while the defensive coach (my husband) and the offensive coach (his brother) debate the use of the seven-diamonddefense vs. the four-four stack.
For the next three months the floor of my laundry room will be littered with a large array of clothing in various shades and patterns of red and white. We are now a family that dresses like Hallmark Valentines.
Cleaning just has to be put off for a few weeks (too bad). Unfortunately that means it is not uncommon for visitors to sit down on the sofa in my living room and discover assorted protective devices that had earlier been catapulted across the room through the creative use of elastic.
The rhythmic beat of "breakdown-huh, breakdown-huh, thump-thump, clap-clap, bang-bang, HUH," reverberates through my car while I transport several small boys encased in plastic to away games and scrimmages.
As part ofthat wonderful group known as football parents, we sell raffle tickets, coupon books and candy bars. We wash cars and make spaghetti to raise money for helmets and shoulder pads. We have memorized the phonenumbers of AmPro and Bacharach Rasin Sporting Goods stores and pepper our conversations with prices on mouth guards and kneepads.
But all the time and effort pays off this Friday when the season opens for both high school and youth football.
* At the high school level,Coach Dave Rigot of Glen Burnie Senior High takes his Gophers on theroad to Duval High School, Prince George's County, at 1 p.m. Saturday.
* In Rec and Park's youth league, the East Glen Burnie Warriorstravel to Lake Waterford Park this weekend to take on the Pasadena Chargers. The 95-pound team starts its season at 8 p.m. Friday. The 115-pound Warriors play the Chargers at 6 p.m. Saturday, with the 135-pound match-up set to follow, at 8.
* Fans of Glen Burnie's A.A. Gridiron Rebels will have to travel to Brooklyn Park for their first game of the season this Saturday. The 75-pound Rebels will play the Brooklyn Park Broncos at 4:30 p.m. The 95-pound teams are scheduled for 6, and the 115-pound players kick off at 7:30.
All of the games are scheduled close to home, and with the plethora of minivans in this community, let's hope lots of fans will be able to make it to the fields to cheer on their favorite teams.
While factors such as divorce, death of a spouse and single-parent status have altered our concept of the family unit, one organization in Glen Burnie has workedfor years to maintain a sense of stability within the changing family.
The Glen Burnie Chapter of Parents Without Partners addresses the needs of more than 500 families in Glen Burnie and the surroundingcommunities.
"Our primary goal is to help assimilate the childrenwith the idea that they're not the only family with only one parent," President Charlie Swift explained. "We plan skating parties, trips to the zoo and the aquarium, holiday parties.
"We also sponsor parent education programs, where we discuss a wide variety of topics, such as how to handle the kids at the holidays, how to build relationships and how to trust again."
The organization schedules social andrecreational events for the parents only, such as softball and bowling teams, dinner theater trips and dances twice a month.
"We are very fluid. People come into the group, make friends, they leave and then they may come back," Swift said.
Although he emphasises that PWP is not a dating service, members have been known to develop relationships with one another -- including Swift himself.
Following hisdivorce in the 1975, Swift joined the Glen Burnie group, was electedchapter president in 1978 and president of the regional council in 1979.
Swift met and eventually married his second wife, Josephine, through the organization. They left PWP following their marriage in 1980.
After her death from cancer last year, he once again found the chapter to be a source of support and friendship. Ten years after the couple had left the chapter, 80 members, past and present, paid their respects to his wife at the funeral home. That kindness made an indelible impression on Swift.
"One of her last requests was that Igo back to the group," he said. "She felt I would need them."
He followed her request and in February was elected president again.
Membership in PWP is restricted to single adults with at least one child. The child does not have to be a minor, nor does the parent have to have custody.