We’re just weeks away from celebrating our 5 year in Portugal anniversary. Upon arriving, we had 17 trunks filled with everything we thought important to bring with us….peanut butter, kid’s books in English, clothes (thank goodness we thought that was important, huh?) more peanut butter, and maybe a baseball, a glove and a football…not really knowing if we’d ever be able to buy a football for our son after moving to western Europe. He was 16 months old then, barely walking. But we were going to make sure he knew how to throw a spiral.
Fast forward a few years. After some language classes and after several hundred trips to different grocery stores and malls, we learned that although very expensive, we could buy peanut butter here. And there was a bookstore at the mall that had books in English. On top of that, we learned that Americans could get just about anything they missed if they were making a trip to Lisbon, or had caring friends and family Stateside willing to send a care package. So, although priceless at the time, some of the items we brought with us 5 years ago are not the same items I would bring with me today if I could do it all over again, knowing what I know now.
I’m a southern girl. Although born in Missouri, I grew up in Alabama. The largest city, Birmingham, was my home until I was an adult. I remember fall weekends like this:
My stepdad watching one college football game on the TV and listening to another on the radio. My dad moving the extra TV into the living room and watching two tv’s at once. Each with a different college game on. I remember their patient explanations when I would ask about the rules, calls and certain plays. I remember playing football in the yard with cousins, aunts and uncles at family gatherings. I discovered my love for defense…..dreaming that if I ever had a chance to play I would want to play on the defense. I learned that college football was a tradition….part of our culture, and that Alabama football was not to be disrespected. (Like the time as a rebellious teenager I came home with an Auburn sweatsuit…..My stepdad put me out of the house!)
Football was a very large part of who we were….who we are.
I feared my children wouldn’t understand…that they would lose that part about them. All 5 were born in Birmingham, AL, but they are being raised in western Europe. (Contrary to most thoughts of my fellow Alabamians, football is not played, or appreciated all over the world like it is in the US. Soccer is “football” to the rest of the world’s population.) I wanted my one and only son to put on pads at about 6 or 7 years old and I wanted to see him play….defense, of course. His dad may like to see a receiver or maybe a running back?
So…you see….when my kids come into the kitchen and ask for a piece of bread with ham on it for breakfast instead of cereal or a pop-tart, I think….”hmmmm…they’re more Portuguese than they are American.” But one things for sure…..they’ll be Portuguese/Americans with a LOVE for American Football!!!
I’m so grateful to be able to hold onto ‘my’ culture. To teach our kids a little about football and what it means to play this sport, and be part of a ‘team’. To show them what hard work and dedication can accomplish.
Michael has been helping these guys for the last year and a half or so. They’ve come SO far….they’ve worked so hard. They play this sport with such pride, dignity and class, in a country that thinks it brutal and violent. Some players have the support of family and friends. Others do not. They play the game because they love the game. Period. They gain nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing where they were and where they are now. The satisfaction of knowing they are the “vice-champions” with another opportunity tomorrow to travel to Lisbon to beat their adversaries, the three time undefeated and reigning champions.
I’m our team’s biggest fan.
They play because they are Warriors.