Hockeytown Alive and Kicking

My ears are still ringing just a little.

I sat in the seats I’ve sat in since Joe Louis Arena was built and watched as the lights dimmed and the ice lit purple under black lights. The wheeled wing danced on the ice, then an image of the shiny silver Stanley Cup. The crowd erupted in tinny cacophony. Atop the scoreboard flames leapt toward the roof, and the crowd roared even louder.

It was the perfect thing to do the night before my former husband moves out of our house.

As I sat in the red plastic swingy seats in row 6 like I’d done since I was a kid, I was overcome with joy. Memories danced in my mind:

the winning game that clinched the cup after 42 years of victory drought

countless New Year’s Eves with my sister, brother, and parents, eating first at Joe Muer’s, then cheering ourselves hoarse at the game, then returning home to watch the ball drop on TV as we nodded asleep on the couch

swiping at tears in my eyes as Steve Yzerman’s number 19 jersey was raised to hang with honor alongside Red Wings greats Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Ted Lindsay

and though I don’t remember it, I cling to the story I’ve been told over and over of my very first Red Wings game, at Olympia Stadium, on my daddy’s lap. I was 4.

I am only beginning to emerge from a terrible marriage and a disappointing journey through religious awakening and an attempt to build a life with someone who never knew how to be truly close. And yet, I am so so happy.

I love where I live. Yes, that’s the same place that all the newspapers tout as having the most dismal economy, the lowest home values, the most foreclosures, and the worst bout of unemployment. I love it all the same because we are a town that bands together against the odds. When outsiders shake their heads and turn up their noses at the idea of Detroit – “why would you live there?” – I just shake my head. This is home. This is a provincial city of hard-workers who are fiercely loyal and have great team spirit.

The Pistons are winning, too, you know. We win a lot, even if you think we lose.

In all the years that I was unhappily married, I fantasized about living in the mountains, about moving to the sea, about relocating to New York City, thinking that a new place would have in its streets and in the contours of its hills, all the answers that I sought.

I know better now.

Geography doesn’t change a situation. We can’t be made whole by a place or seek a sense of place when what we really need is a sense of confidence.

That comes from inside. I’m glad I had the good fortune to gain a second chance. We don’t get many in life, so I’m taking this one very, very seriously.

In the row behind my dad’s friends tonight sat five or six of the top NHL draft picks from all over the world, invited by the Red Wings to witness their greatness on ice. These young men – 18, 19 years old at most – wore sharp suits and thumbed their way through text messages during TV timeouts. The next class of superstars, perhaps, eager to be a part of my hometown.

I leave this marriage on top of the world. It’s the best place to be.

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