Lord, what a stark and shadowy landscape in the winter morning. I can tell you, 8.00 a.m. on Saturday's pre-dawn to me.  Perhaps the sun's coming out as a special favour.  As I have, to watch my daughter's final game.  Thank god it's the last of the season.


Concrete, goalposts, bush-covered hills tipped with emerging sun, the girls in their skimpy gear, parents shivering in layers of wool and scarf and socks.  A surreal place of light and shade, fences and clubrooms, all somehow indefinite: solid enough, but the product of imaginations quite unlike my own. 


Cries of "Come on, Sarah, you're late!" and hasty wrapping-around skirts, pulling off jeans and track pants and jerseys, rip of Velcro, ouch! of hair being pulled, and they're into the game; yells from the parents and shrieks from the ref's whistle.


A pastime for lunatics and the children of masochists, I think.  Why would such harmless girls, such apparently pleasant, inoffensive young women, foregather in the freezing dawn to engage their enemies?  Both sides uniformed in black and white, distinguishable only by the colour of their t-shirts - and, oh! there's my lovely girl, my pride and joy, white t-shirt, black flirty little skirt, those precious outrageous luxurious ("I really need them") Nikes, an over-bib with symbols of dreams this mother can't discern, GK in large letters... one string undone as, inevitably, a string of golden hair escapes the ponytail and flicks about her face.


How some mothers contrive to look as though they're off to play, themselves.  Track pants, track shoes, easily shrugged-off jumpers.  Are they part of this strange culture?  Did they play netball sixteen years ago?  When I was huddling in bed with a book, were these placid looking women fighting it out on the court, skirmishing and clashing, and  "Go!  Go!  Oh, good one, Amanda"-ing Saturday after Saturday in season?


Most unsporting, my own courtside couture.  More get-up than go.   A shroud of martyrdom is part of this ensemble, an aura of sacrifice unrelieved by any accessory except a lament addressing itself (myself) to the time, the day, the impossibility of being awake enough to drive, the thoughtlessness of daughters who play sports, the lack of consideration in whoever booked this game at such an inhuman hour, the lack of parking space, the stale stink of fat from the vat of the chips vendor, the constant pointless interruption of an incomprehensible game by those shrilling bloody whistle-blowers, the indignity of appearing like this in public, the time, oh god it's hardly even daybreak, this is strictly for the birds, and fancy having to set my alarm on a Saturday, it's Saturday for godsake.  I should still be asleep.


And then - this:  the sun beaming over the hill, gradual illumination.  A wary consciousness that everything's in place, that even I am part of this unlikely setting, my ancient leggings and boyfriend's discarded (or vice versa) jersey and erratic make-up a not extrinsic feature of the landscape, these wending strands, this gilded tapestry.


Gold ornaments the joust before me as sunshine glints off the girls' shiny hair, sparks off their watches flashing in the light as they run - pass - reach - yearn for the basket and the ball streaks through the air, and it's a goal for "our" side.


A foetal speck of pride unfurls and grows - genesis : conception : advent :  the sudden coming into my own as I stretch and stand and grow towards the sky, towards the game, smile towards the other parents and clap, and call out too.


Then suddenly the game’s over.  Handshakes all 'round, and "Where's my bag?  What have you done with my sweatshirt?" and "Were you watching, mum?"  And the sun's bright overhead, gold-tipped leaves and gold-green gorse on gilded hills, socks and scarves discarded and skirts left on.  There's a smile on every face, and the only shadow’s where a goal post stretches its arms up and gets in the way of the sun.


No longer yawning, I race my daughter to the car.   To drive through streets reborn, in the thrall of re-creation.


© Bronwyn Angela White (1994)—Wellington, New Zealand

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License