It happens every year. Slowly. Cautiously. A little show of green. A little gold….but then around December things become less cautious, more hopeful. Grandmas begin wearing their starter jackets proudly in the grocery store. Whispers of playoffs become more bold. We wait for each game with bated breath….will they win? How long can we hang on to hope? Will this be the year to remember? Will this year be a year of true greatness?
This post has been long in coming…perhaps even 7 years since we moved from Chicago back (for me) to Wisconsin. That is when it first started to make sense anyway. When it really started to matter. You see I have always been a Green Bay Packer fan. No, I don’t wear a cheese-head and probably never will. I don’t own a crock pot with a big G on it. I don’t have a G painted on my garage door, nor are my curtains green and gold. Honestly, I don’t have anything Green Bay Packer-ish (though I would not mind a classy t-shirt…). But I grew up in Neenah, Wisconsin, and many happy memories, as well as some sad ones, have been made watching and waiting in anticipation of a Green Bay Packers win.
Watching the Packers was one of the things that I did as a kid. It was as much of a cultural pastime as watching Lawrence Welk on Saturday afternoons with Grandma and Grandpa. If we visited extended family on Sunday afternoons it would be a Packer game that drew us to the all be in the same room together. I am sure a lot of those games went over my head. But it was the certainty….the carameling apples and then a watching a game. It was hordes of cousins and a game. It was weddings and a game. It was deer hunting and a game.
When my Grandma died in January of 1996 my Huebner relatives filled a Lutheran grade-school classroom after her funeral to watch the Packers beat the 49ers 27-17. At the time I thought it was a bit disrespectful to be watching the game, but it was in fact a ritual of togetherness for our family. Their amazing win helped us bear the ache in our hearts…and my grandma was a Packer fan through and through.
I was living in the land of orange & blue, very pregnant with my twins when the Packers won Superbowl XXXI. I know it was momentous because my scrapbooks are filled with green and gold.
When my dad had open heart surgery in 2007 we went to visit him in the hospital, being careful to plan our visit after the Packer game which he watched with my brother and sister-in-law. They won! As they seem to do when it really matters.
Two years ago when my dear uncle was dying, there were three things that he aware of: the Badgers won, the Brewers won and the Packers won. A good weekend!
When they were little, my Chicago-born boys were sometimes given Bears and Packers clothes….things that people would find at rummage sales and think would be fun to have our twins in opposing colors. My husband, who had almost never watched a football game in his life, was a little annoyed by this; but I tried to embrace the Bears, and the game itself. After all, despite his non-football-fan status, Andrew’s great grandpa had built and kept the grounds for the “stadium” at KU and his grandpa, born in 1899, had played for the Jayhawks there! I believed that I would probably live in Chicago the rest of my life and that my boys should know something about football and the Bears. But it never really mattered to me. My heart was not there.
But then I moved to Wisconsin in 2003, and my new friends were excited about the Packers! It snows a lot here, and one of the first things I realized was that winter needs to be embraced. Yup….sleds, snowpants, drilling holes in the ice; then I realized it helps to be a Packer fan. In December there was playoff talk once again. My GIRLFRIENDS were talking about the Packers. The Packers are the daffodils that smile at us in January and February. They give us occasions to get together when the holiday merriment is a blur. The hope of a playoff game and a Superbowl with the green & gold helps us embrace the wind, snow, & cold with a little more fortitude.
But it is more than that for me; it is my family team. Our history and stories are intertwined, and that matters. Tomorrow as the Packers take on the Steelers and we watch from Madison, many of my family will gather at my parents’ and watch the game on their “big screen” again, amidst medical challenges, new marriages, new jobs, job searches, the grief of recent losses, and eighteen inches of snow. But for awhile, in the company of friends and family, there will be new hope, new longings, new dreams to explore. A Packer win would be amazing! A loss, disappointing indeed…but the hope will never disappear.