Madison Higa: Striker?

Right now, Madison is filling her belly with the spoils of trick-or-treating, but just a few hours ago, she was busy doing something even more impressive: putting a blowtorch to all of my expectations.

Madison didn’t have a soccer game last weekend and we didn’t get to practice during this week, so I was a little concerned that she’d forgotten everything she worked on two weeks ago. We warmed up a little, then she left to practice with her team. She was decent enough during the drills, but the real test always comes when there’s someone directly in front of you preventing you from doing what you want. I was curious. Two weeks ago she was one of those tunas on the outside of the bait ball rather than the dolphins taking rips at Mother Nature’s bounty. I hope that makes sense. Well, she was hesitant back then, OK?

2She was passive as the game began. She would not challenge opposing players with the ball. She did not willingly enter the scrum of children scurrying after the ball. At one point she tripped and fell to her hands and knees. She got up slowly and looked at the mud on her knees and the palms of her hands. I thought maybe that might be the beginning of the end. She hates getting dirty. Instead, she got up and chased down the ball. From roughly that point on, her confidence grew. She appeared more aggressive. She got after it. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, and remember – I’ve seen Lynnette naked.

7She flew all over the field. I don’t know whether it was pure speed or a lack of effort on the part of the other kids, but she straight up toasted them on a few runs. I’ve never seen her move like that before. At one point I put my camera down and muttered “Holy sh*t” as she streaked past me down the sideline, intermittently kicking the ball a few yards ahead of her. This is the same girl who couldn’t tell me where the inside of her foot was two weeks ago. Could it be? Might she possess the rare combination of Higa/Pascua athleticism? What does that even look like?

5On one of her runs, she was all alone with a wide open goal. She could have walked the ball into the net. Instead, she did what she’d been practicing and wound up for a blast. She kicked it on the run and later told me that she used the top of her foot to kick the ball. Incredibly, her strike found the right post and rolled out of play. I heard my father’s voice. He’s a coach and it never leaves you. He didn’t speak, but he made a noise that was a mixture of support and mild disappointment. I have heard him make that noise many times, and now in the middle of this park, it sounded and felt like home. Madison turned and made eye contact with me. One corner of her mouth was curled into a smirk. She shook her head. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy about a blown goal. I roared. “YEAH, MAD!” How the hell had she gotten there in the first place? She took possession of the ball,  then simply outran everyone else. Then, she set herself up for a kick and crushed it in-stride. Everything was perfect except for the result.

6After the game, Madison experienced her first “good game” high-five line. One of the coaches shouted “Parents, if you love your kids, come down and make a tunnel!” “Nice guilt trip,” I said. He smiled and nodded. “It works.” Then the second-biggest surprise of the day happened. I looked toward where Lynnette had been sitting and I saw her power-waddling toward the field. She made it to the line just in time to participate in the tunnel. Great job, Mem.

I rushed to Madison had gave her a hug. “I’m so proud of you!” I said. “Thanks,” she said. She didn’t smile. Could it be? Was she… in the zone? When things slowed down I told her that I was so happy that she got aggressive. Lynnette remarked that she could literally see Mad’s confidence grow over the course of the game. “Do you know why I tried so hard?” Madison asked. Of course I did. “Well, after the boy on the other team scored, I wanted to score one time to make it a tie, then one more time to make us ahead,” she said. That almost sounds like competitiveness. I have never heard her talk like that before. It was one of those “OK, where the hell is my real daughter?” moments, like she thanks me politely for grabbing something from high on the shelf.

During Madison’s game, the Mets blew a late lead in Game 4 of the World Series. They are down 3-1 in the series. If they hold on to those late leads in Games 1 and 4, and the Mets are up 3-1. It seems they’re working on a finding that elusive new way to break my heart. But truly, none of that mattered. I have witnessed Mets ineptitude many times before and it has always managed to let me down. Today, though, all of that baggage was wiped away by Madison, who showed me something I’ve never seen before and totally blew me away.

Good game, Goob.

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