Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park turned out to be a perfect place for an extended family picnic and Saturday's weather couldn't have been better for it.
Considering I haven't been to the gym in over a month now, I should have known better than to jump into a game of two-hand touch without stretching at all. Especially after an hour of rowing a boat had started blisters on my thumbs and tightened up my shoulders. But it was Saturday evening, we were leaving soon, and given the company, it felt too much like a Fresh Air Fund moment to skip.
Growing up in the Bronx, two-hand touch was full contact and played in the middle of street with constant interruptions from passing cars. Bodies bouncing off parked cars and each other and sometimes the pavement - one Mississippi, two Mississippi - go deep was almost always the play and interceptions were more likely than touchdowns. I was always small and skinny for my age so I made up for it by being tenacious and had the skinned knees to show for it.
Yesterday was no different as I joined the game about an hour after it started, fresh legs in a crowded mix of mid-late 30-somethings and teenagers. There were more short passes and run plays than deep routes and, still not the tallest or the biggest, I was the most tenacious, always following the ball and making several plays on defense. About ten minutes in, the skinned knees came as I dove for a kid half my age to keep him from scoring and made the play. Even managed to keep the grass stains to a minimum.
Today, I paid for my exuberance with every muscle in my legs the kind of sore that makes every step a determined one. But it was well worth it because for that 30 minutes of football, my mind was clear of all the bullshit in the world and I was having fun.
Tomorrow, the real world returns and I will cherish every painful step as a reminder that the life beyond 9-5 is what counts most and nothing should ever be allowed to get in the way of that.