“It smells like football.” That’s what my son Pete said as we stood together at my brother’s tailgate before the first home football game.
You could smell the burgers on the grill, the hot wings and brats. But that wasn’t what he meant.
He meant the interior flutter, the daydreaming, which starts about Thursday as the campus begins its slow churn toward game day. He meant the buzz as visitors arrive and just wander around outside the stadium.
He meant the sunshine beating on our shoulders as we stood on this grassy slope hours before kickoff and surveyed the ND universe...in its color...in its music...in its joy.
He meant the sense of deep belonging. I looked over at his sister Kate, home from California, and his brother Nick wearing the shirt my husband bought to celebrate our upset of top-ranked Miami back in 1988. It’s pretty faded now, but it looks comfortable on him—as many things do with Nick, coming into his own as a college junior.
Pete meant the camaraderie of family when he said, “It smells like football.” As we navigate life through the generations at Notre Dame, these games knit us together in ways unseen. His uncles may never understand his anthropology major, but they can talk with him for hours about Charlie Weis’ offense. And when Pete needs a hand, all he has to do is ask.
When these games bring together uncles and aunts, sisters and brothers, adult children and babies, we are reminded of how family endures, and we are always welcome here.
ND football is like a deep aroma that settles in—like wind-swept leaves in the fall or sugar cookies at Christmas. You could smell it in his older brother’s wistful words that evening calling from Denver. “I never thought I would say I missed South Bend,” said Jake, working his first job after graduation. “But I wanted to be there.”