Sunday afternoon. Sunshine. Driving thru a blue-collar neighborhood in my town. Looking out the passenger window, I saw a family out for a walk: mom pushing a Little One in a stroller, dad with Toddler Son riding on his shoulders.
Not quite a “record scratch/freeze frame” moment, but for me, there was a definite double-take. It’s one of those iconic moments of fatherhood that we all look forward to. And that dad didn’t know it, but for a millisecond in my mind, we shared that moment.
Because: It was me, not that long ago. I remember what that felt like. Exactly.
It’s birthday season for my boys. That guy on my shoulders up there? As the last day of March, he’s a teenager. My oldest? He’ll be 21 within days.
Our little ones, all they want is to be Big. To see the world from where Dad sees it. And all we want to do is to hoist them up on our shoulders, bursting with pride.
And that never goes away. We boost them up physically when they are little, when it’s kind of a cool dad thing to do, and spend the rest of our lives giving whatever support is needed, when it’s the hard work of grinding out a life, sight unseen, day by day by day.
The encroachment of Colts-wear north of, say, Rensselaer notwithstanding, Northwest Indiana is by any measure under the sphere of influence of the Chicago Bears. But my particular town has long been a bedroom community for US Steel’s Gary Works. As such, there are plenty of Pittsburgh transplants here. My dad worked 40 years at Inland Steel in East Chicago. We’re Region people (and Bears fans) to the core. But you don’t have to be a Steelers guy to love Jack Lambert. His 1990 Hall of Fame enshrinement speech is a classic of the genre.
As my career in the School City of Hammond lengthened, as I started to look like a lifer, I thought of that speech often.
I pictured myself at my retirement dinner, in front of family and a few teacher friends, sharing drinks and memories. And I’d steal the money line: “If I had to do it all over again, I’d be a high school math teacher. And you damn well better believe I’d be a Gavit Gladiator.”
But there was more to that Hall of Fame speech. A lot more.
The guy who made the cover of Sports Illustrated, who was selected All-Pro and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, who heard the roar of 60,000 voices wash over him, that day stood on stage, receiving the highest honor his sport can bestow, and he thanked coaches, equipment guys, team doctors, teammates. By name.
Lambert saved the best for last. He called out his wife and children, by name, pointed to them and said, “There’s my Hall of Fame.”
It’s OK if you get the chills reading that. I do, every time I watch the speech.
Spring Break is great. Aside from Birthday Season (and occasionally Easter), it’s an opportunity to recharge, to take stock, to gear up for the last 10 weeks of school, to think about how the year has gone, what I can do better next year.
Always trying to get better. You know why?
I won’t be a Hall of Fame anything. Not teacher of the year, month, day, or hour. But I’ve got a Hall of Fame around me in my classroom(s), six periods a day, 180 days a year…. and at home, 16 hours a day, every day.
I’ll take that. You damn well better believe….