The Night before X-mas

Playing with the Kids

Christmas Eve can be an evening of absolute torture when the kids are bouncing off the walls with anticipation, fighting the conflicting urges of wanting to wait up to capture Santa in the act and wanting to go to sleep so the morning will come all the sooner.

Meanwhile, the adults are sitting in uncomfortable clusters, nursing their fifth egg-nog infused rum drink and not looking forward to the sleeping in arrangements that has Grandma in the study, Uncle Frank and Aunt Lucy in the basement, Uncle Rob and Uncle Leonardo in the attic and Mom and Dad hoping no one brings up politics, religion, the economy or the Red Sox.  At least Crazy Uncle Jim is having a good time out in the garage sneaking smokes, shotgunning Bud and digging through cardboard boxes for whoknowswaht.  It’s tradition.

But something quite special happened this most recent Christmas Eve at Sawyer Arena thanks not to Santa, but to retired BDN editor Mark Woodward and the guys that regularly play hockey with him on Sunday Nights.  Thanks to Mark, I got to play hockey with my wife, Holly Twining, and my two boys, Zane and Augi along with several other dads and kids including Zane’s best bud, Isaac and his dad, Dave, as well as his teammate, Emma and her dad, Jerry.

We don’t often get to play the games our kids do in a semi-competitive setting but when the chance appears, it should be seized with gusto.  A backyard soccer match, a game of catch, some 2 on 2 basketball game, tag football, all of these are excellent opportunities for the old man and big mama to get dirty with the kids.

A few game highlights:

Zane played goalie and the adults took it pretty easy on him…at first.  When it became clear that anything slid softly toward the net was going to get paddled away the shots starting coming with a bit more spice.  The first goal against of the evening was scored by his mother who did a fine job of going after her own rebound and moving it around her son for her first ever goal in competition.  Everyone on the ice was kind enough to get out of the way for this mother-son battle which, given Holly’s bran- new-to-the-whole-skating-and-puck-handling-thing took quite awhile to develop.

Holly’s next, best chance for a goal was thwarted when her husband “accidentally” tripped her in front of an empty net.  Hey, that’s hockey!

Augi, usually a reluctant participant in his MJBB Learn to Play program (until he gets out there) was fired up and ready to go, demanding a regular shift and making his father proud by announcing  at the correct moment that we needed to get back into our defensive zone to protect Zane.  While he never got a goal, or even touched the puck, Augi showed great desire to be out there and enjoy the game.

For me, it was a very special evening, perhaps the greatest Christmas Eve ever.  And the moment I got a breakaway and steamed toward the net only to be stonewalled by Zane was both beautiful and priceless…though I do wish I would have scored.

I am incredibly thankful that I had this opportunity to play a game with family and friends.  And I am remindful that not every child or parent can do so.  Several of Zane’s schoolmates have lost a parent in the past year.  Many more split time between two houses and only see mom and dad together at holiday concerts sitting very far apart.  As for parents, many of their children have moved on to other entertainments or are unable to participate.  We are very lucky.

I hope your Holiday was a good one and now it’s on to five games in three days as two of the Maine Junior Black Bear squirt teams head down to Gorham for a tournament.  Next week, I’ll discuss some of the do’s and don’ts of a couple nights on the road.

For now, again, my thanks to all for a great evening and to all a good night!



Travis Baker

About Travis Baker

Travis Baker grew up playing baseball, basketball, football and soccer. There was a brief stint with karate and a briefer one with fencing but he would not return to the glory days of youth sport until he moved to Maine and had a couple of boys, Zane (11) and August (7), of his own. Inspired by his lads, he learned to play hockey at the age of 35 and now plays every Monday night in Brewer. Thanks to a number of former students, he’s learned a wee bit about lacrosse, field hockey and track and field. When not helping out in his kid’s activities, is the award-winning playwright of One Blue Tarp and Hair Frenzy, both of which premiered at the Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor. Travis is the author of Night and the Texas Sky, and numerous short stories and essays. He is married to the founder of Maine Yoga Adventures, Holly Twining. Currently, he coaches hockey, baseball and serves on the board of the Maine Junior Black Bears as the PR Director.