I Almost Got Kidnapped- Then I didn’t
When I was seven, I experienced my first Hockey King’s game. I have gone to several games over the years but have never actually witnessed the Kings win. Yet I still continue to go because- A) I like Hockey players when they use their little sticks to beat the other team up- B) I enjoy wearing a scarf C) I have a very fond King’s memory that will stay with me always, and that has given me a true love for the Kings, even if I’ve never got to witness them win.
Every year growing up there was one project in our home that required Lloyd the painter to use his talent. One year my mother painted her room a wine color. Another year, Lloyd came to put up my Laura Ashley wallpaper. And when the outside of our home was a crusty white with black trim that clashed with our burgundy carpet installed to match the burgundy bedroom, my mother decided to have the house painted a dusty rose, which under the sunlight turned out blushing pink on a good day and a mauve purple on a grey day. Although we lived in a tract housing development in the suburbs, which had strict rules about keeping the formation of the tract looking matchy-matchy, our home stuck out like a sore pink thumb. Think Lady Gaga at a pep rally. Lloyd may have been color blind, but there was one thing he came through with each year, and that was tickets to see the Kings for my dad who loved the sport.
We owned Purple hats and T-shirts and when I turned seven, my dad decided to take my brother and I to see the game. Finally my t-shirt would be color coordinated with my house. I remember Lloyd in particular, because he always wore a white jump suit, had white hair, and white paint all over his hands and the creases of his wrinkled face. But when we would meet Lloyd at the King’s game, his white hair was slicked back a shiny silver, his wrinkled face was clean, making it look like he ironed his skin with expensive facial scrub and he wore his black leather jacket that made him look like a cool sports fan instead of a painter. Aside for one or two fingernails etched in chalky pigment, his hands were spotless, which had me muse over what wonder soap he used and where I might find some on days we did finger painting. It was also odd seeing him without a ladder.
It was the first time I had ever been to a stadium to watch hockey. I was fascinated by the ice, and the sport and the idea that because I was going to watch the King’s play, that would be the closest I’d ever get to participating with royalty, which had me thinking myself as a princess by proxy. I remember being incredibly overwhelmed by the massive room and the many seats filled with so many fans. Mostly I was excited over the cola and hotdogs. (Back then we didn’t keep kosher- so trafe dogs were okay.)
After we stood in line to get our refreshments, my father turned to my brother, who was five at the time, and myself, who was seven and said- “wait here, I’ll be right back.”
You’ll be right back? He’ll be right back? Was he serious? Wait here- with all these strangers in this massive place? Lloyd left with dad too. Lloyd the painter was not very responsible either, it seemed. I kept thinking about my face plastered all over milk cartons, and wondered how my mother would take the news that her two only children were taken by some random drunk King’s fan. Scared would have been putting it mildly- I was completely panicked. And now that we were considered royalty, the odds of our kidnapping seemed to double. I remember grabbing the white tiled wall that lined the chaotic stadium lobby and clutching on to my brother for what seemed like many, many, many minutes. My eyes darted all over as thousands of shoes walking in a million different directions swarmed around us. We were like two innocent wide-eyed puppies in the eye of a tornado’s crowd storm.
Finally my father came back to our “spot” and said, “We’re all ready to roll. Let’s get our seats.” I spent the next half hour lecturing my father on the dos and don’ts of taking small children on field trips to large places that had many adults who mother warned us were all seething with kidnapping ideas. Now I could put stadiums and Halloween on my list of things to be fearful of. We were already just getting over newsbreaks of kids finding razor blades in their Peanut Butter Cups- it seemed like one more fear my seven year old body now needed to adjust to. He just laughed it off, promised me to not tell mom, and continued sipping his coke.
Where did he go? What was so important that he felt the need to leave us all alone for what seemed like hours? Kid time is like dog years, four minutes can feel like four hours. I begged him to tell me where he went. He didn’t even come back with a snickers bar! He just kept smiling. Lloyd smiled too, and I wondered if they had secretly left us in the stadium alone to bet on which one of us would be taken first.
Finally the Kings came out in their purple suits and skated their way to the middle of the ice. Just as the game was about to start, the scoreboard lit up with this awesome announcement “Kings would like to welcome Ava and Jacob Shallman to the Stadium!” There we were on the video feed- my father was brimming with pride and Lloyd was so excited that they had pulled off the surprise of getting us mentioned in front of 18,000 people.
Of course the King’s lost that night- but I didn’t care, I was in love with this team because of the memory it gave me of my irresponsible father risking his own kids to surprise them with the greatest moment of their lives.
This year, I was invited to attend the King’s game to see my two brothers perform in honor of Jew pride day at the Staple center. Jew pride day at a stadium is about as exciting as it gets. It’s even better than Menorah lighting at the mall on Chanukah. They arrange to sell kosher food, and invite a Cantor to sing the national Anthem. And on Jewish pride night, while sitting in that echo making stadium while viewing the large space filled with thousands of people, our little corner of Yarmulke wearing fans seemed smaller as ever as the minority factor sunk in to a staggering degree. Yet, even so, I felt lucky to have “been chosen” that night as the acknowledged King’s minority. And this time, instead of being scared of getting kidnapped- I watched my two brothers on stage as their band Purdue Avenue performed in the middle of the Staple Center welcoming my favorite team. The scoreboard highlighted them and video fed their incredible performance throughout the entire room. It was without a doubt the most exciting event- and I felt privileged to watch my brother’s bring down the house with their awesome concert.
I struggled with whether to go to this event, as I am not supposed to listen to live music as a result of this year being my year of mourning since my dad passed away in July. But I thought about my dad, and how much he loved the Kings, and how proud he would have been to see his two boys play their music at the Staple center. Technically I shouldn’t have gone, but let’s face it, this sort of thing doesn’t happen every day, and I’m pretty sure my dad would have been annoyed had I not gone to support my brothers’ big night.
I of course brought my own hot dog from Jeff’s, which I smuggled in while every other rookie Jew stood by to purchase tuna fish sandwiches for seventeen bucks at the “Kosher Offering Stand.” I also got there really early, and waited ninety minutes for the King’s to score their first goal. After seeing my brother’s perform and watching the game for an added two hours I got sleepy from inhaling so many salty peanuts and one to many beers, so I cut out of the game twenty minutes early, figuring I wouldn’t miss much, since let’s face it, I love the King’s, but they never win. AND then it happened- and I missed it, that’s right, history was made that night- the King’s scored and they were victorious. The King’s won on Jew pride night no less! So of course now I’m left thinking, that I might be the one fan who jinxes these mighty skaters with the pucks and sticks and oversized jerseys, which is why next game I will be coming to see the one team I should have had more faith in dressed in loyal fan royalty as Princess Di on a float surrounded by jeweled crowns and bedazzled ice skates as I eat my twenty dollar turkey sandwich from the Kosher Offering Stand, which I will NOT complain about.