It’s around 5:30 Thanksgiving morning, and I have a lot to do to prepare for the day. Our celebration will be a little disjointed, as my adult boys now have lives of their own. I’m not saying this in a “please-feel-sorry-for-me” kind of way. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Sure, I miss the days when we all gathered together, enjoying a delicious meal and watching football, but to be at this point in our lives, where things have slowed down in some ways, and the boys have their own plans, is a good thing. It means we’ve done our job, and they have accepted and embraced their new roles as adults and contributing members of society.
This is the first year we’ve had to “split” holidays with Charles. Now that he’s married, it’s a necessary task to get the calendar out months before and see who gets what holiday. I guess you could say we have “joint custody” of him and Kaitlyn. This year, they will meet her family in Dallas and then come to our house and celebrate on Friday. Chris, (gosh that’s hard for this mama to say–he’ll always be Christopher to me) is busy with his job. Yesterday, the day after the SFA Lumberjacks beat the #1 Duke Blue Devils, he arrived back in Nacogdoches at 6:30 a.m., and at noon, he along with the rest of the coaches and team, served a Thanksgiving meal to those who are less fortunate. That’s what I love about this Lumberjack team. They are always finding ways to serve others…(more about that in a minute). Chris(topher) will be able to join us for an hour or so today, and then he has to head back home and prepare for their trip to Arkansas tomorrow. So basically, it will be me and Brian, and all the pets, (Lorelai, Maisie and Scout, plus Ace (Chris’ dog), and Charles and Kaitlyn’s extended family of Marlie, Boon, and Sister.) Again, we have “joint custody,” not only of them, but their animals too.
As I reflect back on the last few days, I can honestly say, this week has been filled with some of the biggest moments of my life. I have so much to be thankful for and here’s a few of those things: Lorelai, Luggage, Lay-ups and Lumberjacks…
My life isn’t like that of most people. Being married to a coach has meant that many of our holidays have been celebrated around sporting events. Fortunately, many of the teams Brian coached progressed to the playoffs. When this happened during football season, that sometimes meant that there were practices during Thanksgiving week, as well as a game. In the years where we weren’t so lucky, and our season ended early, basketball started, and that would mean games, or at least practices, during Thanksgiving week. The same was true for Christmas, which was not only the season to celebrate the birth of Christ, but also a month filled with tournaments, and the start of district ball games. Brian no longer coaches, but as parents of the director of basketball operations at SFA, we attend as many Lumberjack games as possible. We have always been a basketball family, and having a son who is on the coaching staff at a university is not only the icing on the cake, but also the cherry on top.
When we first heard that the SFA Lumberjacks would be playing at Duke during the week of Thanksgiving, it was a no-brainer that we would attend. As I previously mentioned, basketball has always been a major part of our lives, being the bread-and-butter not only for Brian, but now for Chris(topher). Being able to attend a game at Duke, in Cameron Indoor Stadium, well that’s pretty much a bucket list, life-changing experience. And this year, thanks to our son, we were able to have that life-changing experience. But we had no idea, what a momentous trip it would be (more on that later)…
In order to attend the game, we had to find a place for our precious dog, Lorelai, to stay while we were away. I’ve written a little about this before and talked about it on my podcast. After vetting several places, Camp Canine seemed to be the obvious choice. So on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we packed Lorelai’s bags and sent her to camp. I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t unlike the days I left my kids at college. Well, maybe it was a little less dramatic, but it did remind me of Christopher’s first day of kindergarten. As we handed our precious pooch (and her food and one item from home) over to the equally precious and sweet girl at Camp Canine, I have to admit, my eyes filled with tears. I would miss my girl so much! The sweet Camp Canine caretaker put Lorelai down on the ground (we were outside) where she scurried off to meet the other campers (dogs). I thought she would linger, and be hesitant, and maybe even whimper a little, but she didn’t, She ran off and joined her new gang. And I stood there feeling as if I had been replaced. That’s what happened when I dropped Christopher off for his first day of Kindergarten. I thought he might cry, but as my eyes filled with tears, his filled with the excitement of a new adventure and opportunity, and being the awesome mom I was, I kept asking, “Are you okay? Are you going to be alright? Are you sure you’re okay?” wanting him to be upset, at least a little, for my own selfish reasons. Because watching your children grow up is hard, and I guess I wanted Christopher to not be so grown up, and not be so completely ready and unemotional about his growing up. Boys! But now, all those years later, I’m so happy that both of my children were always ready for new adventures and experiences, and despite my mixed bag of emotions, they have always tackled new things with tenacity and grit.
And Lorelai did the same…she ran off with the other dogs, and never looked back. During the few days we were gone, we received videos and pictures of Lorelai, as well as a report stating, “Lorelai is a perfect citizen! She loves it here. Gave her a bath this morning. She is welcome anytime. We love her a lot.” I couldn’t have been more proud…
Now, going back to our trip. In our planning, we decided we wanted to just take “carry-on” luggage. We would only be gone 2 days, and certainly didn’t want to have to check our luggage and then search for it after our flight. This decision forced me to pack light, or at least light for me. My carry-on bag was filled to the brim. I packed one “just in case” thing, but overall, I made everything fit in that one bag…and a HUGE purse.
As I look back over our trip, I have realized many things about “packing light.” I think the idea of packing light can be a metaphor not only for our entire experience this week, but for life in general.
Here’s what I learned:
1. When you pack light, you’re not weighed down with extra stuff. You have everything you need, without the extra items that just take up space. Just like in life, when you “pack light,” you’re not carrying around extra burdens, stresses, or junk. You can enjoy the freedom of not being dragged down by the things that don’t matter. There is no excess– (Maybe not the best point to make on Thanksgiving Day, when we all over-indulge, but I’m sure you get it).
2. Packing light allowed us to get in and out of places quickly. No wasting time having to check bags or watching the carousel at the baggage claim. Packing light was a time-saver, and made us feel organized and ready. Again, no extra stuff holding us back, or wasting our time.
3. Packing light meant that we didn’t plan for all the “what ifs.” We didn’t try to control every aspect of the situation. We carefully selected the items we needed, and we didn’t try to figure out what we might or might not need, just in case. There were no expectations for anything. We simply had our stuff, and were ready for the event. We were going to show up and enjoy every minute. We didn’t think ahead about what might or might not happen. We lived in the moment, and enjoyed every second.
Our minds weren’t overloaded with nervousness, fear, or the possibility for disappointment. We were thrilled to be on this trip, and we never even thought about the outcome of the game. We just soaked everything in, and had the attitude that no matter what the score was at the end, the fact that we got to experience a basketball game in the greatest venue in all of college basketball was enough. That was our destination. The experience. We didn’t fill our minds with all the worries, concerns, or possibilities. We lived in the moment, and that gave us extra room for all the happiness, joy, and excitement that we had as we watched one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history.
I hope that I can take that lesson of “packing light,” and apply it to my life every day, leaving no room for burdens, disappointments, worries or “what ifs.” Being happy with where you are, and what you have gives you the freedom to enjoy every single moment. And I can tell you, it makes the biggest moments even grander!
Since I’m speaking of grander things, nothing could be grander than our experience at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was nothing less than perfect in every way. As director of basketball operations, my son deals with scheduling. He told us back in the early summer that we were going to be playing Duke, but we couldn’t say a word until the schedules came out. Talk about a big secret! I’m usually terrible at keeping secrets. I mean, I used to unwrap all my presents before Christmas, for Pete’s sake. BUT, I knew this information couldn’t get out, and I patiently awaited the publication of the schedules. In the mean time, we were making plans and looking forward to checking this trip off our bucket list. My husband, as I’ve mentioned before, is a state championship winning basketball coach. He has always admired Coach K from Duke. He’s read his books, and has always appreciated his class and sportsmanship in a field where that’s not always the case. Aside from A&M and SFA, Duke has always been a team that I have followed and usually select to win in my March Madness bracket. We never dreamed we would be able to see a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and certainly didn’t think one of “our teams” would be playing there. So this trip was big in all kinds of ways.
Let me make this clear. Even before the game, our trip was better than we ever imagined. Durham is a lovely town, with kind and friendly people. We enjoyed walking around the campus and running into other people clad in their purple and white. The campus is beautiful; pristine would be a better word. The newer buildings blend in perfectly with the original Gothic architecture. The trees were showing off their beautiful fall colors, and the weather was amazing. Between 65 and 70 degrees, with the sun shining brightly. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more idyllic. When trying to put into words the reverence, respect, and excitement we felt, I think my husband, Brian, summed it up best. As we were getting ready to go to the game, I was in my jeans and raglan style shirt that was completely covered with bling and said, “Fear the Axe.” Brian, however, was dressed in his khaki pants and and purple and white striped button-down shirt. I asked him why he was so dressed up, and he replied, “Because we’re going to church.”
As far as the game goes, we knew our guys would give it their all. They were coming off their first loss of the season, to Rutgers. Several of the guys were battling the flu, and we were just hoping everyone would be physically ready to play. We knew the players would be “up” for the game mentally and emotionally, because it was a game and match up they had dreamed about since they first began dribbling a basketball. And we also knew Coach Keller and the other coaches would have them prepared.
We went into the half only down by five points, and we felt as if we would leave there being able to hold our heads up high. We would be able to hang with the #1 in the country, and be proud. As the second half progressed, we began to realize that it was within the realm of possibility to win this game. The entire coliseum was rocking! As their fans yelled, “Lets go Duke,” to the same rhythm and cadence, our fans yelled, “S. F. A.” Everyone was on their feet, and the atmosphere was electric! AND WE WENT INTO OVERTIME WITH THE #1 TEAM IN THE NATION. We knew then, that no matter what else happened, we had played our best.
As the minutes rolled off the clock, and only seconds remained, Duke had the ball. They missed a couple of shots and lost a rebound, and Gavin Kensmil fought for the loose ball while on the ground, and after getting it, threw it to Nate Bain. Bain looked at the clock, dribbled down the court and made the game winning shot! And the SFA section of Cameron Indoor Stadium went CRAZY! What a MOMENT! What a GAME! What an ENDING!
During his interview after the game, Nate Bain mentioned the struggles he had endured over the last several months, and during this difficult time, his teammates and coaches “had his back.” Bain is from the Bahamas and his family lost everything after Hurricane Dorian–their home, and the school and church where his father pastored. Immediately after the hurricane, a GoFundMe page had been set up for Nate’s family. And it raised around $2000 but had been dormant for several months. When word of the SFA victory spread, and this interview went viral, money began pouring in. People from all over were donating, with many donors being from rival schools, who were thanking SFA for defeating Duke. But, you know what? Duke fans donated as well. One person stated that if the SFA win drew attention to the needs of Nate’s family, then it was a win for everybody! WOW! What a classy attitude!
And speaking of class. After the game, the security guards and staff, escorted the SFA fans to the foyer of Cameron Indoor Stadium and let us wait for the coaches and team to come out. They told their own fans that the only people allowed in the area were people from SFA, and their fans graciously left the building. I’ve spoken before about class, but I’ve never seen such a demonstrative effort to display good sportsmanship as I did that night. We were allowed to embrace the moment and celebrate the victory. For that moment, Cameron Indoor Stadium was ours, an extension of kindness and respect from Duke University.
In a world that is oftentimes filled with disrespect, rudeness, and poor losers, this was refreshing and noteworthy. When you show class and pride, everything else takes care of itself. I believe that was true of both teams on Tuesday night. It was such an honor to be a part of this victory, and in the end, to be a part of something that is so much bigger than a game. Sports became about more that night. It became about life. And I for one, am a better person from this experience. Not because my team won, but because we, as a society got better. Winning and losing was put aside, and the story became about helping others.
I’ve often stated that everyone has a story to tell. I’m thankful that by making a lay-up, the most fundamental play in basketball, Nathan Bain’s story was told, and through that story lives were changed, and so were the hearts of many people. At a time when cynicism is high, and people are polarized like never before, on that night, and for a few moments, we were all brought together through sports. And isn’t that what it should always be about?
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for many things. But mostly I’m thankful for Lorelai, luggage, lay-ups, and Lumberjacks.
Thanks for reading. I have some really exciting news about my book coming next week. Until then,
“Axe’Em, Jacks!” And always remember to Re-Belle like a lady…
To listen to the podcast, click on the link on the www.rebellelikealady.com homepage, or on the blog page. You can also listen on iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify. Please subscribe and share! Thank you!