Absence makes the (laxer) heart grow fonder

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The cross-eyed wildcat on the “old-school” bus heralds the arrival of Linfield athletes. Photos by Gabrielle Nygaard

Apparently, the old adage even applies to mildewy buses, turf burns and naps on gym floors. Yes, absence is making my heart grow fonder of even the rough edges of the lacrosse season. Though, maybe the surprising thing is that I held any fondness for those things to start with.

This is the first spring in 8 years that I’m not on a lacrosse team. A recent surgery prevents me from returning, but I’m also busy with my wonderful internship and volunteering in a 2nd grade classroom.

And I’m not the only one having their spring routine turned on its head, anyway. The current team would probably be unrecognizable to me, headed by a new coach and full of first-year players.

Still, it’s heart-wrenching to look at the roster and see the spot where my name has been for the past 3 years usurped by a younger player. There are still traces of my presence, but only online. The team picture (cough bottom right cough) is always a season behind, and my name is scattered through the archives of news releases and statistics. In a highlight of my collegiate lacrosse career, I’m even mentioned by my coach in an old press conference video. I was proud of that little achievement, and am relieved to see it’s been preserved.

But even the less proud, more gritty bits have me waxing nostalgic. This weekend marks the annual Pacific Playday, traditionally the inaugural jamboree of the Linfield lacrosse season. Pacific Playday always meant an early morning, soggy Subway lunch and panicked scramble on the field to get our team together. It’s held in my hometown, on the very turf I played high school home games on. It was always surreal to return there to kick off the season, but it’s even more strange to not be there.

This observation piece I wrote on the away-game experience makes me yearn for every detail, down to the ripe smell of a team’s worth cleats:

The exterior of the white Linfield College bus is outfitted appropriately with accents of red and purple, the college’s name emblazoned on the windshield and the signature wildcat mascot leering from the sides. This misty Saturday morning, it is shuttling the college’s lacrosse team to the University of Puget Sound.

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Only rarely does the lacrosse team merit a ride in the newer athletics bus.

The entire bus constantly vibrates, visibly shaking empty seats and rattling contents of backpacks. The humming and buzzing permeate the bus, though the 20-some ponytailed girls in matching purple and black ignore it enough to nap or chat. Amongst those awake, an occasional voice rises to a perceptible level, allowing a few words to be heard throughout. “I think I’ve been there…” “Phi sig…” “We stopped at that Subway…” The only male voice begins to preach, “If we were actually doing aggressive defense…” before blending away. The distant chatting is accented by occasional peals of laughter and especially large squeaks of the brakes as the bus lurches over bumps in the road.

The girls lounge on the gray and rainbow speckled seats, legs stretching across the aisle, faces nuzzled into adjacent seats. Netted pouches on the backs of seats hold empty juice pouches and granola bar wrappers, while athletic bags and dirty lacrosse sticks litter as many seats as the girls occupy.

Outside the large, dirt-streaked windows, the sky is a blanket of gray clouds without the slightest hint of sun. A constant line of evergreens blur by down the highway. The whishing of outside wind and buzzing of the vehicle manage to lull many more to sleep as the minutes and miles tick past. The driver navigates the bus out of sight of the passengers in the elevated cabin. The digital clock at the front announces in red numbers 10:49. Highway signs promise just 10 more miles to Tacoma.

At the time, the bus ride seemed like something so commonplace as to hardly be worth detailing. But now, I’m glad I’ve preserved the moment. It’s true; you don’t fully appreciate something until it’s gone. With hindsight, I recognize being a college athlete on the road, a laxer, and a Wildcat for the unique and irreplaceable experiences they were.

Best of luck to Cats Lax in 2013. Here’s to new beginnings and to old memories.

I’ll always be a Wildcat at heart. ❤

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One thought on “Absence makes the (laxer) heart grow fonder

  1. I love this piece! You have an uncanny ability to open your soul up to the reader. It’s a powerful quality. I feel I’m really getting to know you so much better through this blog. I love the photos, and I particularly like the soft focus mouse over effect. The next time we’re in the lab, you’ll have to show me how you do that. the gauzy effect on the photos is a perfect match for the heartfelt nostalgia in the post. I never knew you had a gift for this kind of writing, too. Well done.

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