Sixteen years ago today, I turned 24 years old. On that same day, around 2:30 in the afternoon, I sat with my boyfriend in the east stands at Florida Field, watching the end of the first half of the football game and anticipating a much needed trip to the bathroom that I would take during halftime. On that sunny, unseasonably cool day, we sat in seats number 1 and 2 on row 69 in section 37. I know this because I saved the ticket stub, an orange and white piece of cardstock with a thin blue border, a little bigger than the size of a movie ticket.

Florida was playing Auburn that day, October 19, 1996, and the Gators, coached by Steve Spurrier at the time, were undefeated and handing out routine beatings to opposing teams. It was a good time to be a Florida Gator.

My parents were at the game, as they always were on home game Saturdays, sitting high up in the southwest corner of the stadium, catty corner from us. I was living in an apartment off campus back then, finishing up my post-baccalaureate pre-med classes and working full-time to pay for them. Because I was a student, with an address that changed almost yearly while I was in college, I still received mail at my parents’ house. A letter had come for me, my father told me before the game, and he and my mom had brought it with them to the game for me to pick up. I made plans to meet them at the end of halftime.

I recall that bathroom trip vividly, even though nothing newsworthy happened in there. That bathroom break is mostly memorable for what came after, for what I almost missed. If I had spent any extra time in the bathroom, or perhaps stopped to buy a Coke from the concession stand, I would have missed the banner that flew over Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the banner flying behind a small white plane making its last loop around the stadium before flying off to the west.

a spirit-lifting banana bread

We missed a Gator football game last weekend, despite having had season tickets for years and years.  It was a big deal, missing that particular game, the Florida-LSU game.

I’ve been known to skip a game or two – okay, maybe even three – during the college football months. My usual reasons are: (1) work; or (2) the game will be over too late; or (3) it’s too darn hot; or (4) I just want to stay home and bake something and write and sit quietly, in a quiet house, with air conditioning, and access to clean bathrooms. My husband, though, he never skips a home game. Like, ever, in 20-plus years.

Sam injured his back a couple of months ago, during a workout, when he heard and felt a pop during one of the exercises. Over time, his symptoms worsened, an MRI showed a nasty ruptured disc, and he’s now seen an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon. There was an epidural injection last week (fingers-crossed that it was fungus-free), and there may be surgery in the future.

So we stayed home last weekend and skipped the game.

chasing ice cubes, and a recipe for swiss steak

Maggie, our silver tabby Maine Coon, is fascinated by ice. Ice speaks to her on some deep, internal feline level. Q-tips from the glass jar on my bathroom counter run a close second, but the availability of ice is more predictable and, thus, a more achievable treat.

The refrigerator in our kitchen, our third and final fridge after a series of expensive lemons, has an automatic icemaker. To fill a cup with ice, I touch of a small raised square on the space-age keypad to left of the door handle. This elicits a grinding rumble from inside the door, and if I’ve pressed the cubed ice button, I get a noisy expulsion of perfectly formed ice cubes into my cup. If I have mistakenly pressed the button for crushed ice, a shotgun explosion of ice chips and shards is the result.

More often than not, when trying to fill a cup with ice, a stray piece shoots across the hardwood floor. A streak of grey fur, a blur of fluffy feet and tail, inevitably follows that piece of wayward ice, as Maggie attempts to corral the skittering ice. When she catches the ice, she bats it across the floor again, or she picks it up in her teeth and carries it to a special spot. Watching her do this makes my own teeth hurt, imagining the cold that must be radiating down her sharp canines.