Monday, October 25, 2010

Collegiate Day

Last Saturday was our annual “Collegiate Day”. Collegiate Day is my husband’s opportunity to drag us all down memory lane, to his glory days at Fordham and to experience whatever sporting event may be in progress as we stroll the campus with tots in tow. Previous Collegiate Days have been only minimally successful… one time it was raining, one time there was nowhere to park, almost all the time the Fordham Rams have been brutally defeated in the game du jour. But this time was different.

The sun was shining brightly as we pulled into the lot just after 2:00. The parking lot appeared to be full but after the security guard looked somewhat aghast into our overly-stuffed minivan, he kindly ushered us in. As we rolled out of the car and I went to get the strollers (yes, strollers, plural – we typically hit the road with either a double and a single or two doubles) out of the back, I realized we had a made a rookie mistake. The only stroller we had was a single – a single stroller for 2 year-old triplets at naptime and a barely four year old who had nodded off in the car. Not good. But, as it turned out, not so bad either. They all rose to the occasion and the triplets in particular appeared to feel like Big Men on Campus as they strutted their stuff over to the football stadium.

Upon our arrival sometime during the third quarter, the Rams were losing to the Lafayette Leopards but most of our crew could have cared less about the action on the field; they were far more interested in the “big teddy bears”… the mascots of each team who were in turn terrifying and fascinating to all five of our kids. As they made a game of high-fiving the Leopard and the Ram and then hiding behind my legs, things on the field took a turn for the better; Fordham actually won the game in the last thirty seconds (the first such victory during my almost decade-long participation in Collegiate Day!). As the band played on and the players proudly paraded off the field, it was a real Americana moment… there was a crisp breeze rustling the prime fall foliage, just a few wispy clouds in an otherwise azure sky and a prevailing sense of camaraderie and accomplishment as the crowd pushed its way out of the stadium.

We headed over the quad where the bouncy castle had unfortunately been deflated and packed away but the kids were happy enough to toss a ball around and have a few snacks. As we headed back to the car, we remarked that it was “the best Collegiate Day ever.” And then it got even better.

As we dodged and weaved our way through the dusky lot with our stroller-free roamers trying their best to lose us among the parked cars, we happened upon a tailgate in full swing. This was no ordinary tailgate and it was conveniently located just a few spots away from our car. We paused to take it all in while the kids helped themselves to the beanbag toss.  Then we met Mike and Nicole -- the hosts with the most. The first time they asked us if we wanted a beer we refused, “A beer? Now? With all these kids?! Ha! No, no, that wouldn’t be wise. Nope. No way. No thank you.” I mean, it’s not like we were just lamenting all the keg parties on campus that we hadn’t been invited to that night. It’s not like we were almost desperate to top off our nearly perfect day with a perfectly poured pint or anything. Except for that, of course, we were. So we eventually said yes. And much to our amazement, this amazing group of Fordham alum, spouses and kids included us in their formerly private party.

Before I could say “that’s ok, you don’t need to feed all five of our kids dinner”, they had totally set us up… juice boxes and hot dogs for the kids, beer and chili dogs (Chili Dogs! Yummy yummy chili dogs!) for me and Des. They insisted I sit down (There were chairs at this tailgate! And I did sit down!) and, as the kids played in front of the fire (not too close and don’t worry, Mike is one of New York’s bravest), Des and I enjoyed a beer and a memorable moment… the crackling glow of the fire and the pine-scented smoke, the Fordham flag and the American flag, side by side,  slowing waving in the early evening light, the Direct TV (yep, you got it!  They had TV at this tailgate!)that had broadcast the game for this group of avid fans who may or may not have made it into the stadium (a sign of a really good tailgate!), the super-sized grill which boasted a big pot of expertly spiced chili in addition to enough hot dogs to feed the whole football team, and this group of pals who were bound by such memories and were kind enough to include us in their festivities. They even went so far as to honor us with the “Best Newcomers” award – an honor that would indicate that we just may be invited back next year. This Collegiate Day will be hard to beat but, I’d venture to guess that these folks just might be able to do it.

No comments: