Monday, August 18, 2014

Friends, Old And New

Miss TigerBlog celebrated a birthday over the weekend.

Her best friend, Wiki, made her a card. It said on the front: "She is my best friend. If you break her heart, I will break your face." That's Wiki in a nutshell.

Actually, TigerBlog took it as a big victory when MTB told him that, when he takes her and five of her friends out to eat to celebrate, he will actually be permitted to eat in the same restaurant - though clearly at a different table. This was a change from the original proclamation that he would not be permitted in the same restaurant and would have to find someplace else to eat, though someplace close, since he needed to provide 1) transportation and 2) financing for their meal.

Speaking of MTB and Wiki, TigerBlog recently found an old box filled with pictures. There were some in the box that dated back to when he was a kid even. He had great hair back then. Oh well.

Mostly, there are pictures of TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog. Year after year, birthday and birthday, there is MTB - and there is Wiki next to her, in every single picture.

There are more pictures of MTB and Wiki than there are of any other combination of people. There they are, at the pool, both on their chaise lounges, both wearing their shades. There they are, no more than four or five years old, hugging each other while playing some sort of dress up game. There they are, on the first day of school last year at the bus stop.

In fact, there's a picture of them at the bus stop every year, starting in kindergarten and running until this past year. There won't be one of them this year, as they are going their separate ways for high school at least, as MTB will be going to the public school while Wiki will be going to a Catholic school.

They'll still be neighbors, and presumably - hopefully, actually - best friends.

TigerBlog Jr. had three best friends when he left middle school. He then went to a private high school, while the other three went to the same public high school that MTB will be going to. Now, three years later, TBJ is still best friends with one of the three - but hasn't really stayed in touch with the other two.

When TigerBlog got to high school, it was mostly all the same kids he had been with since kindergarten. In MTB's case, her high school feeds from three middle schools, which feed from 12 elementary schools.

In other words, when she went to middle school, she was with kids from four different elementary schools, which means that she had never gone to school with three-quarters of those kids before. Now as she goes to high school, she will be with kids who come from three middle schools, which means that she will never have gone to school before with two-thirds of the kids in her class.

Oh, and her class has about 950 kids in it.

One of the best ways to bridge the gap of unfamiliarity is with through athletics. In MTB's case, she tried out for the field hockey team last week and made it, giving her a leg up before she ever walks into the school.

In fact, her intro to high school was making that team, and it came two weeks before school even starts. TB is pretty sure it'll be helpful to her as she makes the transition into a world of the unknown.

The same applies even more so in college athletics.

A little later this week, the Princeton campus will be flooded with fall athletes, whose return for preseason practice will be Act 1 for the 2014-15 athletic year here. Princeton will go from quiet to busy in no time at all.

The first day of classes here is Wed., Sept. 10. That's still more than three weeks away.

By then, Princeton will be well on its way athletically.

For the incoming freshmen (Class of 2018, wow), the transition to Princeton life is made considerably easier by reporting now and then practicing and ultimately competing.

The athletic side is easier, because there is no schoolwork to make the adjustment to quite yet. So that goes without saying.

It's the other side of it though that is really helpful. At least in MTB's case, all of the kids in her high school class are from the same few towns.

In the case of Princeton athletics, they come from all over.

Take the men's soccer team for instance. There are six freshmen on the men's soccer roster right now. They come from: New Jersey (two of them), Michigan, Arizona, Illinois and New Zealand.

As an aside, it'll be hard for Daniel Bowkett to be Princeton's best athlete from New Zealand, the same country that brought NCAA hammer throw champion Julia Ratcliffe here.

Anyway, having the bond of being teammates is huge. It provides an immediate sense of belonging and gives all of them a foundation here. It's one of the biggest benefits of playing college athletics.

Then there's the other part of it. That's the part where they come back 50 years from now and talk about how they've been best friends all these decades and still remember the first day they met, how they came together on a field at Princeton.

Like it was yesterday.

Or, in this case, later this week.

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