This is the story of a magical day – a sterling day, so perfect that it could only have been a crafted, scripted waking dream. The gods created it, I’m sure, as a gift for our strained family and the troubled times we had been having.
On Christmas Day, 2004, our 19-year old son, Nelson, returned to San Marcos, Nicaragua, the village he’d left in 1986 as a very ill and fragile 21-month old boy. First, we visited the site of his former orphanage – now a small college. And then we started walking and exploring. Around the corner from the old orphanage was a soccer stadium, empty except for a couple of middle-aged men standing in the middle of the field. We watched for a while. Looked at the volcano in the distance and joked about how Nelson, the high school soccer player (All Conference honorable mention, I’ll have you know) should play on his home field.
So his dad headed out to the field to explain in his somewhat cracked but very loud Spanish about how Nelson, his son, was actually from San Marcos, about how his son was a terrific soccer player, and how he had come back to Nicaragua for the first time. And it was as if he’d picked up where he’d left off – before the recent events that had so fractured us – being Nelson’s biggest fan and supporter. Bragging about him. Like old times.
The two men on the field, who turned out to be the leaders of the local soccer league, immediately fetched a ball for Nelson to kick on his home field. Invited him to come back to San Marcos and play for them. Told him they needed him more than we did in the States. Everyone laughed.
From high in the stands, I watched Nelson running up and down the field. His black basketball shorts flapping, big grin on his face as he dribbled and juked. It was always fun to watch him play. He always looked happy playing. He seemed real happy that day. I sat high enough that I could see hills and valleys of the countryside in the distance, my daughters talking by the fence, my other son on the field with his brother, my husband with that satisfied look on his face – the one that said “I made something good happen here.”
There we were. On Christmas. In Nicaragua. Together. We would heal. I could see that.