Max looking worried as the Caps lost their two goal lead and we headed into overtime…
Last Easter weekend Max and I went out for Mexican food at our favorite restaurant. Many of our friends were away for spring break. The beach. The mountains. They had all fled while we decided to stay. Money. Work. I have to admit, I was envious.
And so my mind was on travel. I started telling Max about some amazing trips friends of ours would take this year. Vacations that had been dreamed about for years. Ari was going to China. Jackie and family to Guatemala. I wanted to start dreaming with my boy, to make a plan to go someplace amazing. I wanted to be able to sit and look at books and smile wistfully and say, “Someday…”, scrimp and save. So I asked Max, my wise old 8 year old, the question that was burning in my heart. “If you could go anywhere in the world…ANYWHERE…If you could plan your dream vacation…Where would you go?”
Max sat and contemplated this very important question. He furrowed his brow. He was uncharacteristically quiet. He looked up and said with great seriousness:
This was not the answer I had hoped for. I wanted him to say “Italy” or “India” or maybe “Vietnam”. I wanted him to speak of far away places, of the exotic, of the new.
“What?” I said. “Detroit? Really?”
“Yes mom. My dream trip. Detroit.”
“Wow Max, that’s interesting.” I tried to sound excited about Detroit, about the wonders it might hold. I was failing terribly. “Why Detroit?”
Max looked crushed. How could I, his mother, the woman who gave him life, NOT understand this dream. His voice got strained. “Because MOM…Its my second hometown.”
Now I should say for the record that, to the best of my knowledge, no member of my family (or Juan’s) hails from Detroit. We have never been there. We have never even flown through the airport with Max. But I also need to say for the record, that while Max’s heart belongs to the Washington Capitals, his second favorite team in the NHL–his favorite team in the Western Conference, is the Detroit Redwings.
I must still have looked confused, because Max’s voice rose a bit and sounded strained. “Duh…mom…the REDWINGS….”
As it turns out, all Max really wants to do is go to the arena and watch his boys play. And then, come to think of it, he wouldn’t mind seeing the Blackhawks play in Chicago or the Rangers play at Madison Square Garden.
And suddenly, the dream trip that I had been salivating about started materializing before our very eyes. Not as one fantasy vacation but as a journey, a quest. To go home, see them play at home. Over and over again. Route for the home team. At home.
“Mom,” said Max. “Lets try and get to all 30 NHL arenas before I graduate from college.” I thought about it. Fourteen years. This could be doable. And even if we didn’t do all 30 arenas, we could try. It could be an excuse to see parts of America we would never have dared go, explore cities we would have long ignored. Its an excuse to find old friends in New York, Vancouver and Minneapolis/St. Paul. To uncover old stories and tell new ones as we drive. I started to think of all my old friends, long lost, recently found who live in great hockey cities. I think about the stories I would tell Max knowing we would see them soon. Stories I might never have thought to tell. All the ways this journey would lead me home to some hidden part of myself. It could be a quest. Not for the Holy Grail, but for hometowns. And for finding our loved ones, our heros, our enemies, perfect strangers at home.
Max declared that all the previous games we had been to at the Verizon Center did not count. No–it had to start in October. And it had to start at home. So last Monday, it did. Because in the end, its really all about returning there.