The Cardinal

I still don’t get it. I’ve been married to a Stanford grad for over 15 years now and I still don’t get the name of the Stanford team. Cardinal? Is it ever plural? And the what’s with the tree? These questions remain as unanswered today as they were when I first posed them years ago, yet, as with many such existential queries, the older I get the more at peace I have become with not knowing. Actually, let’s go back a few years to a less complicated time, shall we? Eleven years (to be exact), when Stanford and Navy had their last encounter on the football field.

We had flown down to the Bay Area from where we were living in Washington State to see the inaugural game in the new stadium.   Flight had dressed Keeper in Stanford gear and was similarly garbed. Flight’s parents joined us for the evolution, also wearing cardinal (see, it’s a color, that I get…), and I was proudly wearing my N-star letter sweater. It was a beautiful day (Flight had commented then (and now – see below) on how glorious the weather always seemed to be on football game days regardless of any monsoons in the days leading up to them). I looked around and saw that I was sitting amidst a sea of red, the hue of cardinal to be exact. Long story short, Stanford never showed up. Navy ran away with the game and the Midshipmen easily won 37-9. For Christmas that year, I framed the below pictures of Keeper for Flight to remind him of that glorious game.

Connor Stanford Navy GameBeat Stanford 2.jpg

Flash forward more than a decade, we are back at the Stadium, this time sporting three children, all of whom are now outfitted in Stanford gear. As am I since they are playing Arizona State, the only allegiance to which I may have is from watching Raising Arizona.

After enjoying some great eats and an excellent Stanford mini-reunion as we tailgated in style (see Flight’s post below), we meandered into the game just as the National Anthem sounded. We made our way high up behind the end zone where we cooked in the sun for the first three quarters.


Flight was generous in his summary of the kids’ perseverance in our collective incalescent state. WoodSprite, the fairest of our three, was huddled under my Navy fleece to keep the sun at bay and was sweltering in the added warmth. Flight made the first run to Davista to get some necessary (and forgotten) sunscreen. Flight and Firebolt then made the second run to get a lighter source of shade for WoodSprite and my bright red shell (really more crimson than cardinal) fit the bill nicely.

Early in the second quarter, our monkeys cried uncle and retreated beneath the redwoods guarding the area at the top of the stands. Flight and I alternated extracting ourselves from conversations to go check on our wayward three. At one point I came upon them, impressed by how kindly and respectfully they were sharing the frozen lemonade Firebolt had purchased after Flight had given her the funds to do so.


At half time, Flight’s parents absconded to the cool shadow of the home team’s side. After exchanging a few texts that assured us there were plenty of open seats nearby, we bid our friends adieu and made our way to join them. Aside from the dirty looks from the octogenarian seated in front of us (our girls were occasionally free in flailing their legs, kicking the row of seats ahead of us – one of my own pet peeves about which I most certainly spoke with them), we enjoyed the final quarter in the refreshing shade.

Stanford’s victory in hand, we retreated to Davista to enjoy some gourmet burgers with Flight’s folks before rounding up our crew for a leisurely nighttime tour of the Farm. Classes were recently back in session, which became most obvious when one of the areas we came upon we found littered with loose rows of folding tables, each one labeled with a particular student interest group or extracurricular activity, and chalk instructions for how to try out or join any number of performance groups dotting the extensive patio beneath. Although it looked a little eerie by starlight (especially without any college students present), I felt my annual autumnal draw to go back to school (more on that in a future musing…). Flight and I observed that there seemed to be far more of these options than when we were in college (or perhaps we were equally oblivious to the opportunities on our respective campuses?).

Part of our tour took us through the Quad, which is comprised of the original structures defining the university.


Although class year loyalty isn’t nearly the big deal it is at the Naval Academy, the Stanford graduating classes have each buried a time capsule in the Quad filled with items reflecting their college years.

See, I couldn’t help myself…

When we first came upon the ’90 square, Flight let us know that particular one predated his undergraduate tenure by a century. !!!


I have since learned the custom started in 1896 and the earlier classes buried their defining items retroactively. I don’t know when (or even if) they’ll be unearthing the subterranean museum documenting 125+ years of Stanford student life, but I think it’s a pretty cool tradition.

We returned to Davista basking in the joy of revisiting Flight’s old stomping grounds and made ready for his early departure for work the following morning. After much discussion about how to best skin that particular cat, we decided to do another dawn patrol back to his folks’ driveway.


My voice may have been the loudest in said discussion as I had zero interest in my threading Davista through trimmed limbs, both those surrounding our tailgate spot and the ones narrowing the entrance to Flight’s parents’ house. As per norm, Flight managed it far better than I might have and, after a quick turn, he was out the door and dashing back to the airport for his next trip. I was back to fending for our family solo (no great hardship while still parked in my in-laws’ driveway) until his return two days hence.

There’s much to contemplate in the meantime… What to see locally in Flight’s absence, a date night to plan, lessons syllabi to enact (after finalizing them), sorting out where to eventually live and how to get there, fleshing out more specific plans for the likely event that our house in Maryland doesn’t sell (um, go back, yes, but how exactly and for how long?), figuring out how to felt a hat, and finishing a jigsaw puzzle just to name a few… Most importantly, I wanted to carve out some special time with the girls. Overwhelmed by needing to tend to these immense planning evolutions, each requiring my undivided attention, I resolved to do something spontaneous with Firebolt and WoodSprite for some much needed girl-bonding time just as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Just wait until you see how well that manifested…

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