My husband Jim and I have been attending our kids’ sporting events since they were in elementary school. First there was soccer, then track and cross country, and later a stretch of softball. We’re no rookies to any of the games or to the delicious array of “fair food” usually offered there—burgers, dogs, fries, chips, soda, etc. Last weekend, we attended the final softball game in our youngest daughter’s high school athletic career before she heads off to college and leaves sports on the sidelines.
As we left the field, no words were said, but I knew that both my husband and I felt bittersweet at the realization that such a huge part of our lives for so many years was over and that our “baby” was just weeks from starting a new life two hours away. I clutched our soft Mexican beach blanket and a canvas bag loaded with snacks as we sauntered down a gravel path that meandered between ball fields, bleachers, and a food station. Jim rolled a red and grey cooler beside me and gripped a tall bucket of balls. Our heads were in the clouds. Last game, last time I see some of these kids and their parents, last activity before college...last…last…last...
My mind flicked from one acknowledgement to the next, when all of a sudden, my legs, shorts, and shirt were showered in a warm, red goo. I stopped, stunned at first, confused as to what had just happened. I looked down my body. Ewwwwwww—I was a walking Jackson Pollock canvas. I quickly scanned the area for the group of kids I imagined fleeing the scene, knowing they had just nailed their target. But, except for the players on the fields, no one was sprinting away. All eyes were on the ensuing games. What just happened?
Jim’s eyes widened as he turned toward me and noticed that I had somehow morphed into a bloodied bystander straight out of The Godfather. “What the…,” he murmured. And then my eyes caught sight of the tiny culprit on the ground—a flattened, foil ketchup packet squished into the gravel. Jim must’ve clipped the corner of it with his Nikes or the wheel of the cooler as the Universe gave him a high five for all of the times I had nagged him to mow the lawn. It was one of those “I wish I had that on tape”/Candid Camera moments. “Holy (bleep). You got me with the ketchup, Jim.” We immediately started laughing.
A moment later, I thought to myself, out of all the places where his sneaker could have landed or the cooler could have rolled, what are the odds that it would’ve smacked that miniscule packet at such an angle as to splatter my whole body with bloody tomato guts and not just the surrounding ground? It had to have been a bazillion to one! (And for clarification purposes, Jim did not spray me on purpose, even though I’ve given him countless reasons over the years.)
Now, if you go a bit deeper and consider any of the beautifully, wild, comical, crazy things that have ever happened to you in your life, have you ever wondered, “what are the chances that this could have happened to me?” Think about it. What are the chances that that one sperm connects with that one egg to form your unique child? What are the odds that you “bump into” that one person that one time and the rest is history? How likely were you to meet your best friend or partner out of all of the other people or places in the entire world? All of these “one in a million” or “chance” occurrences beg deeper questions.
Is it all chance or circumstance? Are all of our connections or experiences in this web of life random? Or is there some greater plan? Or is it all karma? Or maybe, “D – all of the above” or “E – none of the above.” Clearly, I don’t have the answers. But what I do know is that a small explosion, namely ketchup, made me wonder about the nature of reality. It sparked a feeling of deep gratitude within me for the unique circumstances that allowed me to meet my husband, have my children, and be around to cheer them on. And it also gave me a great reason to laugh at a huge splash of color in an unexpected situation. Sometimes, the smallest things can spark the biggest wonders or beg the deepest questions. And what are the chances of even that happening?