Chapter One: Family and Friends
Chapter One Family and Friends
I threw down my bag, then picked it up again and stuffed it into the cubbies that Dad had built us by the back door.
My sister Kelsey yelped, “Heeeeyyyy!” behind me when the door slammed before she got inside.
“Too slow!” I said, and walked into the kitchen, kicking off my shoes.
“Too messy!” said Dad, pointing to my shoes. “In the cubby, please.”
“Molly slammed the door on me,” Kelsey whined behind me.
“Welcome home, girls!” said Dad. “It’s nice to see you, too!”
Dad had made us a platter of cheese and crackers and set it out on the kitchen counter. Kelsey and I dove for it hungrily.
“Did you eat lunch?” Dad said.
“Yeah,” I said, stuffing a cracker and cheese in my mouth. “But that was, like, three hours ago.”
“I miss snack time at school,” said Kelsey.
“Kelsey, we haven’t had snack time at school since kindergarten!” I said.
“Well, they should have it in middle school,” said Kelsey. “Everyone would be less cranky in the afternoon.” She gave me an accusing look as she ate a cube of cheese.
“I’m not cranky,” I said after I swallowed another mouthful of cheese and crackers. “I’m hungry.”
“Okay,” said Dad. “Eat your snack then let’s see.…” He walked over to the bulletin board in the kitchen, where Mom kept all the calendars and schedules. “Today is Tuesday. Molly, you have soccer at four thirty.”
“Yep,” I said, picking out two crackers and a bit of cheese before making myself a mini sandwich. “I know.”
“So that means homework needs to get started pronto,” said Dad.
“Yep,” I said again while devouring my mini sandwich. “I know.”
“Kelsey, I need you to help Mom with dinner when she gets home from work,” said Dad, still examining the bulletin board. “Wait, wait, you have hockey. Now how is this going to work…?”
“Dad,” said Kelsey, finishing off the last of the good crackers. “Mom went over it this morning. Jenna is driving me to hockey and you are taking Molly to soccer.”
“Right!” said Dad, smacking his head. “I thought Jenna was working today, but she’s just tutoring after school.”
I went back to my cubby and took out my laptop and my French book.
“What are you doing?” asked Kelsey.
“Starting my homework,” I said, setting up at the table.
“Now?” asked Kelsey suspiciously.
“I have soccer in an hour and a half,” I said. “And hours of homework tonight, which is totally insane.”
“You could start it when you get home from soccer,” Kelsey said.
I rolled my eyes.
Kelsey is not entirely organized. My dad says Kelsey likes her downtime, but in reality, she just doesn’t like to do homework.
It’s not that I like doing homework, but I honestly don’t mind when it’s interesting. The drill stuff, like my French homework, is really annoying, so I like to just bang it out when I get home and get it over with.
Kelsey would be whining about her Spanish homework at nine o’clock tonight.
“Kelsey, why don’t you take a page from Molly and get started too?” asked Dad.
She sighed dramatically.
Dad sighed dramatically back at her.
“How are we even related?” I grumbled, and grabbed another cube of cheese.
“You have Mom’s systematic approach,” said Dad. “It’s good that at least half the family has it.”
I laughed. “More than half,” I said.
Mom and I are organized, and Jenna is too. Dad says that he and Kelsey, on the other hand, are “dreamers.”
“Okay, now Mom and dinner,” said Dad, looking a little worried. “I was going to prep some veggies so she can make an egg dish, but…”
“Mom and eggs,” I reminded him, “are generally not a good pair.”
“Definitely not,” said Kelsey. “Remember when she tried to hard-boil them?”
Both of us started giggling.
Even though Mom’s family owns a restaurant, she cannot cook to save her life. She tried to hard-boil eggs to make egg salad once, and we still don’t know what she did, but all the eggs started exploding. It was a huge mess. I’m pretty sure there’s still some egg stuck on the ceiling over the stove.
My theory is that Mom senses us, especially when we talk about her. Just at that moment, the phone rang, and sure enough, it was her.
Kelsey spoke to her first, going on and on about how ridiculous it was that she had so much homework.
I knew exactly what Mom was saying to her without even hearing it. If you stopped complaining and just did the homework, you’d be halfway done by now.
Mom and I are a lot alike in that way. I have no time for drama or complaining.
Kelsey handed me the phone.
“Hi, honey,” said Mom. “How was your day?”
“Fine,” I said.
“Fine?” asked Mom, and I could tell she was wrinkling her face up.
“Yeah,” I said. “You know it takes a few weeks to get into the swing of things with a new school year.”
“That’s true,” said Mom. “Do you have a lot of homework?”
“While Kelsey was complaining, I got half of it done,” I said, smirking as Kelsey stuck her tongue out at me.
Mom laughed. “You’re just like me, kiddo!”
After I was done talking to Mom, I handed the phone to Dad.
He talked to her for a few minutes and then said excitedly, “Hey, girls, Grandpa made his famous chili at the restaurant today! Mom’s bringing it home!”
“Dinner!” Kelsey yelled, punching the air.
“Yeah!” I yelled too.
Grandpa’s chili was super delicious, so I was already looking forward to it even though my stomach was full of cheese and crackers. But I’d be hungry again after running around during soccer practice.
Dad smiled and nodded. He hung up and said, “Dinner is saved.”
I knocked off most of my homework pretty quickly after that and went upstairs to get ready for soccer.
I started playing soccer when I was in kindergarten, and I’ve loved it ever since. I love how fast the game is, but I also love that there’s a strategy. It looks like a crowd of people is just running around after a ball, but in reality, you have to have a plan to get the ball down the field. Everyone on the team has a specific role for moving the ball around.
I heard my older sister Jenna burst in the front door downstairs, because Jenna doesn’t do anything quietly.
“I’m hooome!” she called.
“Start the parade!” Dad says like he always does.
Jenna is in high school, and she can drive, which she thinks makes her a lot cooler than she is, but she actually is pretty cool.
She is also kind of intense. Mom says that Jenna is a “demon on the court” in tennis, which makes sense because Jenna is really competitive.
“Molly, ten-minute warning!” Dad called upstairs. “Soccer starts in twenty, and it takes ten to get there!”
I threw my hair in a ponytail and headed downstairs. I didn’t love having practice after school because I was already tired. We had it in the mornings the week before school started, which was better, even though I had to streak myself beforehand with tons of sunscreen, making my eyes all stingy when I sweated.
“Hi, Molls,” said Jenna, slamming the fridge. “Dad, what do we have for a snack? I’m starving.”
Dad pushed the cheese and cracker plate toward her, and Jenna scowled.
“They ate all the good crackers!”
“There are bad crackers?” Dad said. “Huh. I didn’t realize we could divide crackers into good and bad. That’s good to know.”
“Dad, you know what I mean!” Jenna fumed and opened the cabinet to rummage through it. She opened a box and stuffed a few crackers into her mouth.
“Eat some cheese and fruit with those,” said Dad. “That’s the healthy part.”
“Dad, I’m old enough to drive a car,” said Jenna. “I know what healthy food is!”
Dad sighed and gave Jenna a hug. “You may be driving, but I will always see you as the adorable toddler who called herself Wenna because she couldn’t say her Js yet.”
I burst out laughing as Jenna rolled her eyes at him. Dad is so sentimental sometimes that we call him Mr. Goo.
“And you,” said Dad dramatically, hugging me hard. “You were my baby who refused to say Dada or Daddy. That’s the first word most kids say! But not you. It was Mama, Mama, Mama. Then Wenna. Then dog…”
I was laughing because I knew the rest. “Then ‘kit cat’ for Henry the cat,” I said.
“Yes!” said Dad. “Kit cat, then Daddy. Finally! You nearly killed me!”
I smiled. We actually have a video of me sitting on Dad’s lap right before I touched his nose and said “Daddy” for the first time. He was so happy he looked like he was going to cry.
“Sorry about that,” I said, then hoisted my soccer bag over my shoulder.
“Okay. My child who now loves me has soccer,” Dad said to Jenna. “Kelsey is… where is Kelsey? Kelsey?” he bellowed upstairs. “Are you on the phone before you finished your homework?”
“Probably,” said Jenna, smirking.
Kelsey came downstairs looking guilty. “I had to ask Lindsay what the assignment was,” she said.
“Kelsey…,” Dad warned.
“Fine, I’ll start my homework.”
“Great!” said Dad. “Jenna will take you to hockey while I take Molly to soccer. Okay, kiddo,” he said to me, and we headed out to the car.
Even though I’ve been sitting in the front for a long time now, it still feels weird to ride next to Dad in the front seat.
“You excited about the game this weekend?” Dad asked.
“Yeah,” I said, “but the first game of the season is always hard. There are some different girls playing this year.”
“That’s expected,” Dad said. “That’s why you have practice, to get to know each other’s strengths and rhythms.”
“Yeah,” I said, and rested my head against the window.
One of the good things about Dad is that he understands that even though I like to talk, I also like to be quiet at times. Jenna talks nonstop and Kelsey is either talking or texting, and we can all be a little noisy, but sometimes I like to zone out, especially when I’m getting ready for soccer. It kind of clears my head so I can focus. Mom used to joke that I had an on/off switch and nothing in between.
Dad pulled into the lot at the soccer field and we got out of the car.
I guess it’s kind of weird that Dad still comes to my practices now that I’m in middle school. I noticed the other day that most kids get dropped off, but Dad sits in the bleachers, watching. He’s not one of those parents who yells from the sidelines, which I am very thankful for, but he definitely pays attention.
“Okay,” he said, taking his coffee mug. “I’ll be in the stands if you need me, honey. Have a great practice!”
I waved and trotted off to the sidelines.
My BFF, Madeline, was on my team. And this year, Riley and Isabella were playing with us too, which was both good and weird. Good because I liked them both, but weird because Riley was better friends with Kelsey than me.
Coach Wendy had us out on the field before I could think about it too much. We warmed up and did some drills, and then she had us count off for a few three-on-three scrimmages. I liked those because if you have a full team on the field, you aren’t always on the ball. When it’s just the three of you, it can be much more intense.
Madeline was on my squad. We’ve been best friends since preschool, and we’ve been playing together forever, so I know almost without thinking which way she’s going on the field or when she’ll decide to take a shot.
We were passing the ball back and forth pretty well when Riley said, “Hey, guys, I’m on your side,” which startled me a little.
I nodded and passed to her, and she tripped over the ball. Her face got red, and she said, “Sorry,” and looked down at the ground.
Riley is a good player, but when she thinks people are watching or there’s a clutch moment, she sometimes just whiffs on the ball.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Let’s work you in better.”
I nodded toward Madeline and she nodded back.
“Play forward,” I said to Madeline.
I passed the ball up the field to her, and she made a really nice kick to Riley, who sank it in the goal.
“Now that’s it!” called Coach Wendy happily. “That’s it, that’s it, girls! I saw what you did there. Worked each other in and figured out how to play together. Great job!”
Riley took a bow, and I laughed. I looked up at Dad, who gave me a thumbs-up and a grin.
We played for another thirty minutes before Coach Wendy blew the whistle.
“Girls,” she said. “This weekend is our first game. I don’t care if we win.”
Everyone looked at each other.
“I care that you play well as a team,” Coach Wendy explained. “We have a long season and plenty of games to win, but let’s do this as a team, okay?”
We all nodded.
“Now give me a G!”
“G!” we all yelled.
“What’s that for?”
“Go!” we yelled.
“G is for?” she said, smiling.
“Great!” we yelled.
“G is for?”
“Goal!” we yelled. “Go! Great! Goal!”
I wondered if I was the only one to realize that the cheer didn’t exactly make sense, but it sure got us all riled up.
Once I sank into the seat in the car, I realized how tired I was. “Oof,” I said. “That knocked me out.”
“Well, you did a heck of a lot of running,” said Dad.
“Speaking of running, did you get a chance to run today?” I asked him.
Usually he went in the morning, but once school started, it was harder for him to get out in time.
“Nah, I missed today,” Dad said, wincing. “And I definitely feel it.”
“There’s a track around the soccer field,” I said, thinking about it. “When you bring me to practice, you can just do some laps instead of sitting in the bleachers.”
“What, you don’t like your old dad sitting around watching you?” he joked.
“Dad,” I said, already knowing where this was going. “I like having you at practice. I want you to be at practice. But I also know how much you like to run.”
Dad smiled. “Ah, okay. I thought you were trying to nicely tell me you were too old to have your dad with you! I thought maybe I embarrassed you.”
“I know,” I said, and rolled my eyes. “Mr. Goo, you are very sensitive!”
Dad laughed. “You know what Mr. Goo who is sensitive wants?”
“What?” I asked as we turned onto our street.
“Some chili!” he said. He pointed to our car, which was in front of us.
“Then step on it, sir,” I said. “Because if we don’t get home soon, the rest of the family is going to eat it all! Follow that chili!”
“Give me a C!” said Dad.
“C!” I said.
“Wait, we don’t have time to spell out chili,” said Dad. “How about just ‘go’?”
“You know, maybe we should say, ‘Give me a G’ for Grandpa,” I said, picking up my bag. “Go, Grandpa, for saving us from Mom’s dinner!”
Dad cracked up and said, “Let’s keep that cheer between us.”