I don’t know why I remember the Monday Night Football guys, but they lurk somewhere in the recesses of my memory, reminding me of the fearless exuberance I embodied in childhood.
Every Monday night after dinner, I would walk my dog, Regis, up the hill by my house to Kennedy Park to swing. Little more than a backyard playground for the circle of houses surrounding it, Kennedy Park was my respite from the “joys” of family life.
As soon as I got to the park, I would take my seat on the swing, Regis planting himself to the side of the swingset, and let the air carry me into the oblivion of my imagination. Regis, the ever faithful companion, would listen as I rattled on about life, the boys I liked, and my dreams for the future.
Around 6:30 each Monday, a few guys, probably mid-20s, would poke their heads out of their house. From their front porch, they sat, drinking beer and watching me enjoy the solitude and peace of my imaginary world.
The first time I awoke from my day dreams and noticed there were people behind me, I waved and smile, prioritizing neighborliness over stranger danger, a safe enough action in 1990s Crescent Hill.
After a few weeks of shared waves, I guess the guys’ curiosity got the better of them. I mean, who wouldn’t wonder what an elementary school girl can find so exhilarating about siting alone in a park, with only her dog to talk to.
The guys were friendly as could be. They never brought their beer down to the park when they came to talk, but they always came. Without fail, every Monday night, they would come sit on the park bench beside the swing and talk to me about life. And at 7:00, they’d go back in to watch football and Regis and I would make our way down the hill to beat the sun home.
You know, it’s funny, because I don’t think I ever told anyone about these guys. I probably understood enough at the time to know that my parents would never let me go back up there by myself if they knew I was hanging out with guys twice my age who I didn’t know. As I got older, I figured others would doubt my sense of safety and think I was foolish to talk to people I didn’t know. And maybe I was. But I’m glad I did.
The best thing about these guys was that they made me feel important. For 30 minutes every Monday night, they came out and listened to me talk about God knows what. And for that 30 minutes, I was the most important thing in their world and vice versa. And that was it. There was no expectation of friendship or sense that I owed them anything. Just 30 minutes of life together – 30 minutes of being heard – 30 minutes.
I don’t know why I remember the Monday Night Football guys, but it could have something to do with the fact that they were there. Without fail. Every Monday night. For 30 minutes. And they didn’t want anything from me but to share my thoughts, which up to that point, I didn’t know mattered.
Tonight, Monday Night Football starts again. Tonight, I might walk my dog to the park and talk to the clouds. Tonight, I will walk home without watching Monday Night Football, but I will remember the Monday Night Football guys and how they helped me find my voice.