Thanksgiving Gratitude Roll: The Minor Leagues.

It’s before 8 am. I am sitting in a freezing white room, accompanied by swiveling fish and a skinny, Patagonia-clad mom talking to the cashier. She’s wearing short socks like me; all four of our ankles are exposed to the cold air. She is overwhelmed by the new world of high school hockey she has entered. The cashier, hockey nut, bounces up and down, offering her help in any way he can: talking to her son about the adjustment, and practice, and learning the ropes of this very unique early-morning corner of the high school experience. “Hockey moms are unlike any other moms,” he says, scrolling through the roll of before-dawn excursions (due to the number of teams and leagues sharing one rink, all kids have to go through before-sunrise practices at some point), stinky and hard-to-wash jumbo-gear, and spontaneous dental emergencies his own mother had braved for so many years. His eyelids dance as he reminisces about his hockey youth. And I get a sense that she’s spent some time here. This is my first time, and yet I feel welcome.

Upon waking before the sun, I had noticed myself holding a grudge by this car shop’s oil change system. They told me to get here at 8 am sharp, and depending on where I fell in line, I could wait 45 minutes or a helluva lot longer; it all sort of depended on luck. I arrived, and was offered a carabineer in the color of my choice by the bright-eyed attendant. The light grey tiles, the black-smudged walls, the chill against my ankles from the cold morning seeping into this tiny waiting room all feel reminiscent of hockey, and I begin to enjoy the enthusiastic conversation about shoulder pads and vulgar locker room banter and chipped teeth and team camaraderie. And so I linger here, despite the inviting coffee shop next door.

I reminisced about my own short-lived hockey days. Of getting up so early in the morning it surpassed that zone of grogginess and went straight into confused state of night awakening. My mom drove me through the dark, abandoned streets to the rink, watched me slash around on the ice haphazardly with other skinny, braces-faced 14-year-old girls, and then schlepped me to school, all before the hour that feels so early to me in this moment. Sure, I only played about two months before losing interest. Mom probably anticipated as much, but was spirited about supporting me anyway. I probably haven’t thought much about it in over a decade. I never got to build that sportswoman companionship with my teammates or score any goals. And though I was never good, or didn’t stick with it long enough to get good, I was happy, and I am happy now thinking back on it.

And I am grateful. I am grateful for the coupon a friend gave me that landed me here, in a new and unexplored corner of my town. I am grateful for hockey—for the chance to pad myself thickly enough to physically express aggression as an angry teen. And for learning how to skate. And to skate backwards. And to stop on both sides: skills I have held to this day. I am grateful for that ability to glide along a frozen earth, unafraid of my own speed. And I am grateful for my hockey mom, and all other hockey moms, like this chilly-ankled Boulderite sitting by my side.

This year, I want to dig deeper into gratitude—into the details that can get forgotten. I want to extend my gratitude ponderings beyond the quick round at the table and into the week. Here’s the beginning.


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Rachael Uris, MA, LPC is the owner of Atacama Counseling, LLC, offering sex therapy as well as individual and couple's counseling for issues surrounding sexuality, love, and pregnancy. All services are located in downtown Boulder, Colorado, and are provided in English and Spanish.
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