Age 12: A Public Display of Affection

By Cal Evans

When I was in 6th grade, I attended a small Christian school in Coral Gables Florida. For part of the year, we had a substitute math teacher whom I remember absolutely nothing about except for the fact that he was a university of Oklahoma football fan. As luck would have it, that year, Oklahoma was coming to Miami to play the Hurricanes and this particular teacher was beside himself with delight. One day he spent almost half of class regaling us with the stories of this years Oklahoma team, how good they were and what an exciting game it would be. He usually followed these oratories with comments like, “While Miami doesn’t have much of a team this year, if you get a chance to go to this game it will be great just to see Oklahoma play.” To him, just the exhibition of them running out on the field was enough to warrant the price of the ticket. It was positively mesmerizing just listening to him talk. Of, course, being good 6th grade students, we did everything we could to keep him going under the misguided assumption that the less we covered in class, the less that we would be tested on.

Somehow, I got it in my head that I wanted to go to this game. I’m not sure why because to this point I don’t believe I had actually watched an entire football game. But I knew that if this teacher could get this excited about the game, no matter how bad Miami’s team was, it had to be a game worth my attention. So off I went to Dad that afternoon to pitch the idea.

Actually, in my 12-year-old mind, this seemed like an easy sell. I knew that Dad loved football (and to me, football was football, it would be years later before I discovered that for football to be interesting, you actually have to care about at least one of the teams.) So selling the idea of a father and son outing to a football game should be easy.

Dad came home that night and patiently listened to my plea over dinner. He said he would look into it and so, for the moment that was that. I would have to wait until he could check the game and see if we could get tickets. Well, at least it wasn’t a “No.”

As I remember it, a couple of days went by. Not a day passed with me giving Dad (what I recall as) a polite reminder that I was waiting. Then the day came. Dad came home, we are sitting at the dinner table and he breaks the news to me.

The game was on a Wednesday evening. Dad, being a minister of music at a Baptist Church, considered Wednesday evening one of the high holy times of the week, as it was when choir practice was scheduled. I was crushed. Here I was missing out on one of the defining moments of my youth because of silly old choir practice. I was confused, I was dazed, how could this happen. My life, as I knew it, was obviously over.

My disappointment must have shown on my face, as it often did when I threw my pouting fits. Dad picked up on this quick and tried to explain, to little avail, that he had to work that evening. As I remember it, the longer he explained, the more I didn’t understand. In my world, what I wanted trumped all, even work. And so we left it for the evening.

Time passed, maybe a day or two. I suffered the public humiliation of being in the 95% of the class that would not be able to attend the game. It was a nightmare of 6th grade epic proportions. Then one night, again at the dinner table, Dad looked at me and told me that he had managed to arrange for a substitute director for rehearsal and while he had scolded his choir members for missing rehearsal for better reasons, we were going to the game! My mind reeled. I was floating on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe it. I was actually going to my first football game. I couldn’t wait to tell the class at school the next day. I was now part of the elite 5% who were actually going to the game solely on the teacher’s recommendation. It was wonderful, life was good.

I don’t remember much about the game. I supposed that Oklahoma won but if pressed, I could not tell you for sure that they even took the field. I remember that on the way to the game, Dad stopped by the grocery store and we loaded up on candy. I got a big Nestles Krackle bar, one of the huge ones that were like a foot long. It was a feast for a family of 4 but my Dad bought it for me alone. (He got a box of Recesses cups which was his official football food…but that’s another story)

To this day, I’m not sure why going to that game was important to me. Now that I’m older I know why it was an important memory for me. Dad never has been given to public displays of affection. You had to know where to look to see it but we’ve always known that he loved us. But this, this was a public display of affection just for me and I’ll never forget it.


Age 6: Parking Lot Snow Angels

By Cal Evans
Charlotte North Carolina is a cold place in the winter, especially for a 6 year old. Mittens, coats, hats and scarves were all a fact of life. Most of them ended up as a ritual sacrifice to the great god Lost-And-Found. The winter of my 6th year was no exception. It was cold, it was damp and that can only mean one thing, it snowed. And boy did it snow. I remember waking up, sitting at the table with Mom and Dad gleefully listening to the school closures! No school meant a free day and since Mom was a teacher, it meant a day off for her as well (Or at least a day of corralling her own brats instead of someone else’s.) And so our snow day adventure began.

At some point during the day, maybe because he was bored, maybe it was to keep Mom from killing us, dad decided to take me and my 3 year old sister for a ride. Our winter wonderland vehicle was a 1960-something faded yellow Datsun ‘almost-wagon’. Ours was the deluxe model with the fold down back seat and random heat. But at that age, it just didn’t dawn on me that the heat ought to work every time you turned it on (but I digress).

So Dad strapped us into our sleigh and off we went. This being the late 60s, strapping us in consisted of closing the doors and shouting “Hang on!” but we didn’t care. To my 6 year old mind, we were sleighing through the woods on a beautiful winter day. That image held until we got to the parking lot at K-Mart.

We had the only K-Mart on the face of the earth larger than the Pentagon. This thing was huge. Long before the days of Super K stores, we had K-Mart, K-Mart Foods, K-Mart drugs and K-Mart gas. This place was so big it had its own zip code. We pulled into the parking lot and stopped. I looked out the windshield. The ground was solid white for as far as they eye could see. More importantly, it was totally empty. There may have been cars at the other end, I’m not sure I couldn’t see that far for the curvature of the earth. A flat sea of white was before us.

I looked over at my farther. His face was now contorted into a mischievous grin. At least now, years later, I know that’s what it was. At the time it was just scary. Here was my Dad, grinning, staring out at the snow covered parking lot as if it were some arch nemesis waiting to be bested. Man and parking lot starring each other down, daring the other to be the first to blink.

Obviously, the parking lot blinked (although I do not profess to have seen it blink but out of the corner of my eye, I recall a flash of light. It was either a blink or the blue light in K-Mart going off).

The horses growled loudly as if someone missed a shift in a ‘1960-something Datsun almost-wagon’, and our sleigh leaped forward. I let out a yelp that most would mistake for a blood curdling scream and grabbed the handle on the dashboard and held on for dear life. (My sister gurgled in the back as drool dripped on the seat-belt she was clinging to.)

Faster and faster we drove, 5, 10 15 miles per hour as the pristine white show crunched beneath our tires. The scenery now sliding by faster than my eyes could take it in. Then with a berserker growl, the fire in his eyes reflecting off the rear-view mirror, my father screamed, “HOLD ON!” My fingers became one with the small handle I was clinging to as he slammed the clutch to the floor, spun the wheel and yanked up the parking brake all in one seamlessly beautiful maneuver from hell.

It was a moment captured in time. For a brief instant time stood still and I was cut lose from the bonds of gravity that hold us to this earth. For that one brief tick of the clock, the only thing between me and flying off into outer space was a mottled grey handle attached to the dashboard of the car.

Then it was over and I landed safely in back my seat. I sat breathless, thankful that I had survived the ordeal without soiling myself. With the snow settling all around us and time returning to its normal pace, I said the only thing that I could…

(…and my sister gurgled in the back seat)