At night I hear crickets outside the window of my office. They blend in with the sounds of the ball game on the radio.
Outside my window, it is still summer, but a different sound means that is about to change.
Whistles blow. Players cheer as they get ready for another Pop Warner football season.
On Sundays in the fall, I hear the same sounds with the additions of the crowd cheering and the voice of the PA announcer telling everyone what is going on.
Outside my window, that means it is fall.
I never have to get out of my chair or even look out. The sounds tell me what is happening. I can also close my eyes and remember a different time in my life.
I was 11.
My dad was trapped in traffic leaving work in Boston for our home in the suburbs.
We were in trouble. I was supposed to have all my football stuff on and be ready to jump into the car and he pulled up.
One problem: I didn't know how to put the equipment on.
Problem No. 2: Neither did my mother.
On the floor of my bedroom, all the equipment was spread out.
There was a pair of cleats and a helmet. We had that covered.
“What’s this?” my mother asks.
“I think they said it was a girdle.”
“I have girdles. That doesn’t look like a girdle.”
Dad, where are you?
There was an athletic supporter, otherwise known as a cup. We both didn’t know much about that either. We weren’t sure whether it went inside the pants or hung on the outside, like the elbow pads.
On the floor, there was a whole bunch of padded things.
“Where do these go?” my mother asked.
“I think in the pants.”
“Aren't these pants a little short?” she answered.
Dad, where are you?
We thought we had the shoulder and rib pads on correctly. The mouthpiece was ready to go.
“Now, how the heck do you get this jersey on over all this stuff?” asked my now totally confused mom.
It was getting real late. The coach had a little thing about being late. He made you run laps after practice.
“You’d better get outside and wait for your father.”
There was no equipment on the floor. That was a good sign. My dad pulled up in the Plymouth and I jumped in.
“Your mother helped you?” my dad quickly asked with a smile. “Well, we don’t have time to change now.”
It turned out my pads were all on backwards. The knee pads weren’t anywhere close to where they were supposed to be.
And, oh yeah, the cup went inside the pants.
“Did your mother dress you, Hardman?” asked the coach.
“Well, yes sir, she did,” I quickly answered.
I had thrown my mom under the bus.
“She never played football, coach.”
On a late summer going into early fall night, right in the middle of the field, I took off all my equipment and, with help from the coach, got all the pads where they were supposed to be.
When I hear the sounds outside of the window, I can remember it like it was yesterday.