Saturday, June 12, 2010
I'm not a massive football fan. I watch football matches in the following circumstances: When Liverpool or England are playing a cup match, and the World Cup.
My husband, Ed, hates football. So 12 years ago I watched the 1998 World Cup at my parents house. I would walk the mile or so to their house with little baby Thomas, and we would watch the matches together. We watched every match, however insignificant, Lithuania v Cote D'Ivoire, Netherlands v Japan, all of them. I don't remember if my sister Lindsey was there or if she was living somewhere else at that time. I remember watching tournaments with her and others without her, but I can't place this particular one. Dad would get very cross if everyone wasn't in place on the sofa by a good 10 or 15 minutes before kick-off. It was as if he thought we were in the team and they couldn't start without us. And he got very tense in the last few minutes of any match with a goal difference of 1 or less (which is the vast majority of football matches). He would leave the room and pace up and down the hallway. Occasionally we would arrange to all cheer or groan on 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... and he would come dashing in to see what he had missed.
Then 8 years ago I would leave baby Eleanor and toddler Tom with Ed and haul my pregnant self to mum and dad's place to watch the 2002 World Cup. We always had bowls of salted peanuts when we watched football games. I don't know why, it was just a sort of family tradition. Mum and I loved interactive wallcharts, and would obsessively fill in the results and calculate what they all meant, especially in the group stages: "So as long as England win against Slovenia by at least one goal we are definitely through...", "...unless France lose to Tunisia by more than four goals...", "...yeah but that's not going to happen..." but we still watched the France v Tunisia match with fingernails bitten to the quick. We watched every match until England got knocked out, and then we skipped the rest and watched the final.
Mum died five years ago. I seem to remember making a desultory effort to watch the 2006 World Cup on my own, but it wasn't the same. The football was only ever part of it. More important was the family time spent together. The family traditions, the shared focus, the common joy and grief.
Since mum died there have been many Christmases and birthdays, her grandchildren have made first holy communions, been in nativity plays and strings concerts and swimming galas. I often think "Mum would have enjoyed this, she would have been so proud", but mostly I was more sorry for her that she was missing things than I was sorry for myself. Today I feel sorry for myself. I wish I could watch the World Cup with mum.