Deja vu isn’t what it used to be

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I attended a high school football game last Friday with my son. It was a crisp evening, perfect FB weather. The bleachers were crowded for both the home team and the visitors. Skinny boys with huge shoulders bounced up and down on the sidelines cheering their pals as they ran onto the field like a herd of skittish ponies. The band played loudly and mostly in tune. The cheerleaders were full of pep even if they were never quite sure where the ball was. The parents shouted encouragement; a few of them yelling directions at the refs. The scene was familiar; a déjà vu, in fact, right out of my past.

Except for one thing. A young father, maybe 30, 35, sat near us with his 4- or 5-year-old son who had a toy truck. The child ran the truck along the benches of the bleachers right up to where we sat, then away in a screeching wail over the ridges of the seats. His father said nothing. Although there were plenty of looks passing among the surrounding crowd. no one said anything to the boy or his dad.

Finally, at the start of the second quarter, a young woman near me said in a low voice to the child, “Please, that screechy noise hurts my ears.”

I watched the boy look boldly into the woman’s face and zoom his screechy car back and forth in front of her.

I looked at the dad, who hitched his shoulders and sat back in his stadium chair intent on the game. He said nothing. He had a stern countenance, rough stubble on his face (in vogue right now), and I had the sudden thought that he liked that his son was annoying everyone around but would yell at his kid if he was doing this at home. I said nothing.

On the way home from the game, my son said, “I wanted to ask that dad if he’d corral his son, but I got this feeling that it might not be a good idea.”

“Yeah, me, too,” I said, and told him my theory of the family dynamic.

My son’s take was a little different from mine, however: “You never know these days who might be packin’.”

“Packing? You mean carrying a gun?”

“It’s the times, Mom. I could picture a scene of blood and screams. I felt I should do something, but I knew that if I did, things could turn ugly. Why chance it?”

Lordy. The times, they are a changing…again. Or returning to the bad old days of the wild west. There are forces afoot that bear ill will. You never know when it will break through in just the place you might be.

The next day, we went on a walk/run fundraiser for breast cancer – hundreds of families with laughing, dancing kids, babies in strollers, friends in arm, groups singing and chanting, all of us enjoying one another and the autumnal walk through trees that overnight had turned to red and gold. Indian drummers and Hispanic steel drum bands played along the way, stirring me to march instead of walk – another déjà vu – the beat of football homecoming parades around the square when I was in high school.

Toward the end of the parade for breast cancer, atop one of the buildings along the route, I spotted a watchful, helmeted, riot-geared police sharpshooter.

On second thought, my weekend wasn’t déjà vu at all.

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