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Football season makes me interested in tubas. I went to my first ever Colorado Buffalos game last Saturday. The first thing I noticed was how the tubas danced in unison as they played the fight song when the Buffs scored a quick touchdown. I’m a side-dish girl when it comes to life.

The main event might be what brings everyone together, but people stay at the table to linger over sauces.

Buffs game with Stan Ralphie running with flags 480

Each time the Buffs scored, eight car-sized flags, carried by cheerleaders, ran across the end zone, announcing C-O-L-O-R-A-D-O. Just after the first quarter the cheerleaders divided the crowd in half. A 3-story tall C told my half of the stadium what to shout, and a similarly gigantic U instructed the other side. “C!” “U!” “C!” “U!” we shouted at the 4,000 other fans as if they were all our new friends.

As they turned the C on its side to carry out of the stadium, the people making it move got dwarfed out of view. It looked as though the giant letter was hovering itself up through the stands. It gave me the giggles and I distracted my dad again from the passing, the running, and the touch-downing.

Buffs game with Stan Ralphie is let out! 480

Before the game starts, and at half time, Ralphie, a stampeding buffalo, is released to run across the length of the field. The people who run with him are mighty quick! And, as happened when I was watching, sometimes they fall down from all that speed.

My father raised me to appreciate the side-dishes and sauce. We had several main events in my childhood. A regular Monopoly game the fun of which was my father’s outrageous trades:

  • Me: “You give me the railroads, Boardwalk, and Marvin Gardens. I’ll give you The Electric Company.”
  • Dad: “Are you sure that’s fair?”
  • Me: “Maybe not. OK and you throw in $50.”
  • Dad: “Oh. OK.” He’d burst out laughing as he handed over the properties, then say, “The bank is going out of business,” and he’d hand every player $500 so he could stay in the game.

Another regular event from my childhood was our father-daughter walks. We went out in all kinds of weather, and the neighborhood dogs joined us so that they became a pack of 7. Francis always walked just under the bridge made by my father and I holding hands. Smack was the protector, warding off any threats from dogs we happened to meet. Dawson was lucky if he didn’t encounter a porcupine.

We hiked for miles and hours. There was always an apple in my father’s pocket and he’d bite off a chunk for me since I always had a loose tooth. I never remember being cold, but I still cherish the smell of a wet dog. Laying by the fire to get warm once we were done, I’d bury my head in Smack’s damp fur and eat Spaghettios my dad had heated on the stove.

My dad is getting older. We all are, but he is feeling it. As we walked from the football stadium to the car he needed to take a few breaks. We stopped and told funny stories and I thought about how life circles around. How many times, when I was little, did he stop to help me get a pebble out of my shoe for the 14th time? How many times did he linger while I collected my 30th pretty rock? Never did he rush me. And when my rocks no longer fit in my pockets, he made room for yet another in his own.

On his birthday I gave him a box of those stones. They were so precious to me, but I remember my siblings making jokes, so I got embarrassed. Now that I’m a parent who walked countless hours with my children, I really believe my father when he told me he loved those rocks. I know he saved them for a long time.

Buffs game with Stan dancing tubas 480

When you’re really a grown up you don’t get to do new things with your dad so very often. Much of the time is spent remembering. I’m glad I got to point out the dancing tubas to my father, and I’m ever so grateful I could be there while he paused on his walk back to the car so I could pay him back for the countless times he paused for me while I was growing up. Happy birthday, Dad. Thanks for sharing my joy at the dancing tubas and the decades of lingering walks.

Here is Joni Mitchell singing about that Circle Game.

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