by Holly Mohr
Our little brood watched the Super Bowl this year, and I’ll tell you, I was into it.
Okay, not like, watching-the-actual-football, or knowing-what-was-happening-at-any-point- in-the-game “into it,” but I didn’t hate that it was on.
It was lovely having something special to focus on that brought our family together. Given the radical age differences of literally all of us, we generally spend at least half of any designated “family movie night” arguing, sighing and eye-rolling through the very decision of what to watch together. By the time we all agree on something, it’s bedtime. The Super Bowl, on the other hand, coming to us as a sort of “assignment” from the nation, bound us in a way that wasn’t open to argument—we were too fascinated by what it all might mean.
Each member of the family found ourselves in a different relationship to the experience. My husband, having grown up in a sports-proficient family, knew what was going on, and would occasionally make emotional utterances based on what he was seeing. And at one point when the rest of us were making too much noise, our son very seriously admonished us, “Be quiet! I’m watching baseball!”
“You literally are not,” I said. It took him awhile to grasp what I had said.
But sitting there, nestled into the couch, everybody fairly happy around me—that was gold. To feel a part of something (not just in charge of it), safe, nestled in—it’s a feeling I don’t find myself getting access to very often. As a mother of three, especially in our present, ever-changing, hyper-frenetic world, yes, I experience joy with my family, but no, I almost never experience calm and total well-being. The anxiety, the pressure, the tending is near-constant. But to remember that I am also cared for? That was huge.
I didn’t have to actually watch the game—I could sit there and read, until Alicia Silverstone came on to do a Clueless commercial, or Ben Stiller popped up looking like Derek Zoolander. And you know I watched Rihanna. But we could all just be, naturally, together. Andrew and Eric rooted for Philadelphia (Andrew once got a really great cinnamon bun at a coffee shop in Center City and has vowed to live in Philadelphia someday ever since); Juliana and I argued over Alicia Silverstone’s core identity—is she more emblematically Cher from Clueless (obviously) or Kristy’s mom from The Babysitter’s Club)?, and Sage danced, whether there was music or not.
I’ve got lots and lots of feelings about Rihanna’s performance (too many to talk about right now), but I will say she brought me to tears. Much of that was the powerful messaging of how she celebrated her simultaneously postpartum and pregnant body, but revisiting her early 2000s catalogue released something in me too.
Hearing “Umbrella” and remembering being a senior in college, ready to graduate, wondering if the rain would ever stop, if I would ever get some clarity and find my way in the world. Wondering if I would ever feel safe and as though I belonged somewhere. I was living in an apartment at the time whose screen-less windows my roommate and I would leave open all summer, hoping against hope no one would break in and no animals would climb in, hoping the peeling paint wouldn’t poison us.
But on Sunday, blankets wrapped around me, feeling both safe and comfortable (at least in that moment!), looking around the room at this family gathered around me, the sense of gratuitous gift was overwhelming. It felt like an answer, taking me back to that place of panicked questioning uncertainty, then showing me, right in front of me, what’s possible. Gift, identity, voice, love, life is possible!
Then hearing “Diamonds in the Sky,” remembering one of my best friends coming to visit after my first daughter was born, all of us smiling so brightly together on top of the Mt. Washington overlook, chasing Juliana down Grandview Ave. together, feeling like we were all diamonds falling from the sky, full of light and unexpected hope.
Maybe I should watch sports more often. Or at least remember to be open to new experiences. They just may hold secret gifts, or even answers to some questions.