Fall, Flags and Football
by Maria Cisneros
Every school year, around this time, I start hearing drums whenever I wake up in the morning. I even hear them when I get home from work. At first I think it’s all in my head, but then I start looking around my little neighborhood and notice that off in the distance a group of people are gathered. I see them pause and then I see them follow a leader. The leader is armed with a whistle and a baton and then that’s when it all clicks: marching band season is on and the football games are coming up. Aside from the fact that I should already be used to this (I’ve lived here for over fifteen years) listening to the whole array of musical instruments makes me feel like it’s already mid-October and football season is already in full swing. It blurs the fact that it’s still August and hot as hell outside. Let me tell you one thing about me: I love football but I especially love what the season entails. It marks the beginning of my yearly trek down memory lane. Let me explain a bit:
I was raised in a family that consisted mostly of male relatives. My father is one of seven brothers, most of my cousins are males, and I have three younger brothers. So to say the very least, football is a family favorite. I remember being seven-years-old and going to see my father play flag football at Memorial field. It was back in the day when the field was still weathered, beaten down but it still had real grass and mud. There was a certain beauty in its ugliness. While some people went to church on Sundays, we went to see my father play. So every Sunday from sometime in September to I think it was late October (or maybe it’s later…I haven’t asked my father), my family and I would get to see a live football game.
We had our routine down: my father would wake up early and head over there first, my mother would get my brothers and me up, we’d call in an order for some tacos at Margarita’s Restaurant (it used to be on Santa Maria but closed a long time ago) and then we’d head over to Memorial. I still remember the feeling of walking through the rusty gates of good ol’ Memorial Middle: the chilly morning breeze, the reflection of the sun just barely kissing my sleeping city, and the sound of cheering and whistling going on. My brothers and I would shoot down the stairs and head onto the field and look for my father on the sidelines. My uncle, who is my father’s eldest brother, was a player and the coach and he’d let us hang out there so long as we didn’t get in the way. The team’s name was the Cisneros’ Packers; the name taken from a meat market my grandfather owned a long time ago. My uncle had started the team and at some point during the team’s long career, six out of the seven brothers played together. So every time my brothers and I would head onto the field, there’d always be a couple of cousins already there. At all times, there’d be Cisneros’ and their families at the games. A couple of aunts hanging out in the bleachers, cousins running around, and the family matriarch proudly watching her sons play football together, as a family. It was the way they had always been brought up, to stay together. It was the absolute best.
While there, we would throw the football around, we’d test each other’s endurance by running races around the campus, and we’d freak each other out with the stories that we had heard about the priest without a head and a nun that would walk around the campus (I’m still not sure if any of it was true). When we’d finally have our fill of running around, we’d sit on freezing concrete benches and eat our cold tacos not giving a care to the fact that their heat had long ago disappeared. They were still delicious. After my father’s game would end, we would watch the competition play for a little while and then head home. Sometimes everyone would flock to my grandmother’s house: uncles would make a
carne asada and watch the Cowboys play, aunts and grandmother would play Scrabble until their hearts’ content and the cousins would run amuck playing hide-and-seek, tag, and colores (don’t tell me you haven’t heard of colores!) Other times, the families would each go to their respective homes but meet up later on in the afternoon to go play baseball in West Martin field.
Years down the line, the Cisneros’ Packers introduced some of their kin into the team and sons
got to play alongside their fathers. I didn’t realize it then just how incredibly special those times were, but, I’m deeply appreciative of the fact that my family let me experience those events.
These are the memories of my childhood. When everything was simple. When times were innocent. When Sundays weren’t meant for recuperating over the hangover brought on by the previous night’s fun. No, back then it was a time for family and most especially for football.
So, whenever I hear those drums in the morning, it takes me right back to when I was seven-years-old running around Memorial with my family, and my heart experiences an ache of longing for those days but with football season right around the corner, memories will be relived and new ones will be birthed and I know there just can’t be anything wrong with that.