It is possible sometimes, thankfully, to learn something by observation instead of cold, cruel experience. When the cubs are playing, for example, it is best to let them play, and if you simply must watch them play (they are so cute, after all), it is best to make some considerable distance between your person and those cubs, being content to watch through a powerful lens, because Mama is nearby. She does not bother to ask if you are benevolent or illintentioned, or even if you are a neutral observer. Since it is so difficult to be a bear, why bother with formalities?
This we have learned by observation, at the expense of a very few. Today I learned an advanced lesson in the same vein: what if Mama brings an enforcer?
The kid with the Blue Helmet, ten years old, returned to the ice after a two-week hiatus due to a concussion, just in time for the Championship Game. Yes, after a lengthy campaign fought heartily amongst all of five teams which shared the same sheet of ice since December, two emerged from the fray to contend for the coveted trophy (we won it last year; it’s pretty nice: some parts are metallic, and there’s even a whitish granite base). Part of our ice time fees are appropriated to purchase this Golden Apparition.
Speaking of fading gold, Mrs. Frostedflakes was there, to everyone’s chagrin. She assumed her position at center ice, top row, almost five entire rows removed from the ice itself, from where she would hurl invective for the entirety of the game (I suspect she believes herself to be encouraging, but parents from both teams dread her incessant shrieking). Frostedflakes assures us that she is thrilled to see her friend’s son Bluehelmet in the game, and how this ten-year old is going to bury his opponents. We all begin counting the long seconds until we are free from her slavery.
The puck drops. There is bad refereeing, unusually bad, in fact, but, hey, that’s the way it goes. Nevertheless, encouraged by Frostedflakes, the kids are set on edge with each other, and they are especially chippy, to my great disappointment: I want to see my kid play hockey. Then it happens:
Bluehelmet skates in on a breakaway, going hard for the goal. The goalie comes out meet him, and, as is his custom, Bluehelmet tries to skate through the goalie. The laws of physics engage themselves, with the result that Bluehelmet flies headlong over the goalie, taking on the ice with his head. He lay there in some considerable pain. The entire arena assumed a quiet hush.
Except for Frostedflakes, of course, who shouted an epithet (unacceptable for reprint on this family website) which echoed through the courses of the arena. A few moments later, from the quiet morass rose another voice: “I can’t believe they let this happen!” It was Mama Bear, charging through the crowd as she would a thicket. Uh oh. I focused my eyes upon the ice, as did the most of us. Alas, one did not.
Mama Bear looked around (I was sneaking a peek, I confess), resting assured that enough people were paying attention to her, so she said, breaking the utter stillness which lay upon the arena and the surrounding six-block area, “All right, everybody just chill!”
“Why don’t you just chill?” a man said.
She shrieked, “BECAUSE THAT’S MY SON OUT THERE!” (followed by an epithet or two).
“Who cares?” he retorted, unwisely trying to reason with Mama Bear. “You just told everyone to chill, but you yourself are not chilling.”
Suddenly, from behind the raised hackles of Mama Bear appeared The Enforcer, who must have been a boyfriend (simple observation says that he was neither husband to her nor father to Bluehelmet). He said menacingly, “He just had a concussion.”
“That’s not the point,” came the stupid reply. “You want us to chill, but you’re in my face now.”
“HE JUST HAD A CONCUSSION.”
This is the point where I thought to myself, “This is not going to end well.”
The reply came, still quite rational, still quite stupid, “Why is he on the ice so soon, then?” To be sure, we were all thinking it, but no one, and I mean no one with any sense at all would have said it out loud anywhere near Mama Bear.
This is where the “Oh yeahs?” and “Shut your face” epithets began to line up, flanked by streams of expletives. Eventually The Enforcer climbed into the stands to point his fist in the face of our rational fool, whereupon the rational fool thought it wise to cease his reasonable responses, and he stood up to reciprocate the gesture, shoving his fist towards the face of The Enforcer.
The arena staff swooped in to establish peace, escorting the hotter heads out of the immediate area with all due precision. Ten-year old Bluehelmet returned to the ice after twenty minutes or so to join these happy goings-on with thirty other ten-year old boys. He seemed fine. It was about ten o’clock in the a.m of a Saturday.
I’m sure that Bluehelmet went home to rest in the bosom of Mama Bear, while The Enforcer looked on, drinking cans of cheap beer. It’s so difficult to be a bear.