Eight years ago, pretty much to the day, when RG Son was 15, the local rock station DC101 wanted to welcome back a hockey player after his week-long suspension for fighting (I know, don’t we all HATE the fighting in hockey? 😉 ). Richard Zednick, then playing for the Washington Capitals, had no doubt used his time off to ponder his offense, but he had also bleached his brown locks to an interesting shade of white blonde in anticipation of his triumphant return. Come down to the station at 5 a.m. the next day, crazy radio jock Elliot invited his mostly 20-something male listeners, get your hair bleached by a local salon providing chemicals and stylists, and win a Zednick jersey and a ticket to that night’s game.
“Mom, I gotta do that,” said RG Son as we listened to DJ Elliot and he drove via his learner’s permit to school downtown.
I glanced over at my baby’s baby face that had somehow become attached to a hulking 6’2″ man’s frame when I wasn’t looking. Now, he wore his brown hair short, his long, soft blonde curls of a decade ago a long-ago memory recalled only in photographs.
“Really. Since when do you care about professional ice hockey and a no-name player?” I asked him, hoping he saw the car pulling out from a side road up ahead.
“Mom, I have been to Caps games before. They are awesome. Come on, I gotta do this,” he smiled, braking for the other car.
“Your dad isn’t even around to ask,” I said, because it was always something when Mr. RG was traveling overseas–tropical storms, blizzards, local emergencies–and now my kid wanted to bleach his hair.
“It’s just hair. It’ll grow out in three weeks, and Dad will probably want to go to the game, too. You should both go!” Cute kid, always thinking of his parents.
“Fine, you get yourself up and we’ll go. But we have to leave home at 4:30 a.m., and we don’t stay if you can’t be out of there to get to school on time.”
“Yes!” he said, slapping the dash.
Yes, wonderful, I thought. If he got up, and that was a huge if, he’d probably take one look at everyone’s hair color and decide it wasn’t worth walking into 10th grade home room with hair of similar shade–hockey tickets or not.
I know this will shock all my readers who are raising teenagers–I was wrong. He was up, dressed, and dragging me to the car at 4:15 a.m. I yawned and whined about not having coffee as he drove us through the deserted streets toward the station. He just smiled and repeated at least three times, “This is so awesome.”
I don’t know what I had expected–50 crazy people willing to have their hair stripped of all color? Except it was more like 450 crazy people in a line that wound through haphazardly parked cars that filled an adjacent lot and lined the sidewalks. Wow.
“Um, I don’t think I’ll get through the line in time for school, you know?” RG Son said, clearly disappointed. I wasn’t sure we could even find the end of the line to stand in, much less get through it in a couple of hours.
“You know what? Let’s just go to the front and see if they’ll let you in because you’re a kid,” I said, feeling a little embarrassed for him as his 5’4″ mom led the way through the throngs of fans, most of whom were still partying from the night before or starting a new party at that moment. Whatever. I didn’t get up at 4 a.m. for nothing.
“Excuse me,” I said as I tapped the shoulder of the DJ’s sidekick, “Flounder,” whom we spied with a megaphone and a clipboard.
“Yeah, what?” he said, glancing down at me and then up at my boy.
“Well, he’s got to get to school. Any way you can let him get in early to bleach his hair?” I smiled.
“You mean let him cut the line?” asked the sidekick, somewhat taken aback.
“Pretty much,” I said. “You know, to get to school and all,” I smiled again.
The sidekick was silent, then he waved RG Son to the front of the line. “You’re number 8, but don’t tell anyone I let you in. You’re the last one who cuts!”
On that morning, not only did my boy get his hair bleached, he was also photographed with the Caps mascot Slapshot, and he ultimately appeared on the radio station’s Web site as well as on the Verizon Center Arena’s jumbotron at the next billion games. His hair looked hideous, but he was somewhat of a hero when he arrived at school, everyone fawning over his Zednick jersey and rubbing the top of his head.
The 200 or so fans who managed to get through the line that morning became known as Zedheads, and I was christened Zedhead Mom. I did indeed go to the hockey game that night and was converted to an instant fan of the fast-paced game on skates.
This past weekend, my bartender girlfriend and I dressed up in tight jeans, high-heeled boots and cute sweaters to attend the Panthers-Islanders game, my first hockey game in South Florida. As much fun as I knew we would have, I couldn’t help but feel light years removed from the Washington, D.C., married mom I once was. A million miles away from home.
And then I saw it, a name on the back of a player’s sweater that made me grin: Zednick. Playing for the Panthers. Perfect.
He didn’t know that Zedhead Mom was in the stands cheering on his team to a shutout. Because I don’t even know Zedhead Mom anymore. But I do know that watching Richard Zednick skate again brought my past and present worlds together, if only for a few hours. And it was all good.