He was a disappointment to his dad, that’s for sure. After all, his dad had spent three hundred dollars, just for his uniform. Then there were other expenses: Fees to enroll him in the soccer program, costs for driving him to various places for games, and all kinds of nickel and diming that had to be done. The money alone was enough, but there were other things too.
Pride, for one. His dad was one of the coaches. His son had let the team down. And why? For no decent reason: for lack of concentration, for being a scatterbrain, for making what grownups called a “mental error”. Christopher wasn’t so sure what a mental error was since he was only six, but, driving home in the car, he was sure of one thing, his father was pretty mad at him.
He was only six and so the particulars of what exactly had happened were already fading. He hadn’t been paying attention anyway, but now because everyone seemed so angry, he had to think about it. So in the icy silence of the car he tried to patch it back together.
The evening had started out okay. He’d come home from school and his mum had made him a snack. He’d stayed around in the kitchen for a while, getting under her feet, because after being gone all day he wanted to be in the room with her, even if she was forever telling him to go outside. Finally his dad came home. He loved his dad too, except when his dad was angry.
His dad had ruffled his hair, reminded him of the game, and called him “tiger”. His dad always called him that before a game and he liked it. After supper he’d put on his uniform. He knew it was expensive because it looked so nice and because he had overheard his mum and dad arguing about it, with his mum saying that it was overdone to pay three hundred dollars for a kid’s uniform and his dad saying back that sports were important. He didn’t like the argument, but he did like the uniform.
His dad teased him all the way to the school ground, even though his mum was along in the car: “You’re gonna pop some goals tonight, tiger! Play with your head up. Remember what I told you about staying in position and not just stupidly chasing the ball. Let the other kids be stupid. You play like your dad! Make me proud!” Christopher liked it when his dad teased him like that. Mum didn’t say much, but he knew she would be watching him too and she’d told him how great he looked in his uniform.
He couldn’t remember so clearly the first part of the game. He hadn’t scored. He remembered all the parents jumping and screaming every time there was a goal scored and they hadn’t jumped and screamed for him, though his dad had screamed at him once because he had started to chase the ball like kids who play stupidly do. His dad had talked to him about that at the break but, by then, he was pretty tired and, really, would have liked to go home. But the game was only half over and he still had to take his turn playing goalkeeper.
It was then, when he was in goal, that it went wrong. It was here that he wasn’t paying attention. The ball had been at the other end and he was tired. It was like he was all-alone on the field when he saw the young gopher poke his head up, not three feet away. The gopher didn’t move so he began slowly to crawl towards it. He had never been that close to a wild animal and his heart beat wildly. The gopher didn’t move. He could almost touch it! His eyes and the gopher’s locked and held. It was magic. He forgot about everything.
Then he heard the shouting: “Christopher! Christopher! Look up! Get with it! Pay attention! There’s a breakaway! Get up!” All that shouting scared the gopher. Their eyes let go and the gopher disappeared and it was too late. The ball was in the net and everyone was yelling at him. But he was still glancing at the gopher hole, hoping to meet a pair of eyes.
His dad was pretty mad. There wasn’t any teasing in car going home. His mum looked like she wanted to say something, something soft, to break the silence, but she was quiet too: “You are a disgrace to your uniform!” was what his dad had said. But Christopher wasn’t thinking about his uniform or about how much it cost. He was thinking that it would be nice if mum said something, and he was thinking too about the gopher and its eyes and how he would imagine that when he went to sleep.
Jesus said: “I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the clever and have revealed them to mere children.”