Nina was thrilled that five children were now in school. This meant that she could relax a lot more than she used to. Yes, Clara did just become a toddler, but that’s one toddler. Not like it was before when there were 5 at various points on the toddler age range. Diego and Antonio were also about to become teenagers–and the thought crossed Nina’s mind that at one point five kids will all be teens at the same time. And she decided to take advantage of the fact Clara was napping to do some of her own.
Sergio had been having the retirement talk for awhile, but now his tone changed. It stopped being a light-hearted conversation and became more in depth. The idea of not playing soccer was something that was both frightening and thrilling for him. Since he was 10, he’s been on a soccer pitch almost every day of his life whether it be training or an actual match. As he started to turn 34, he was now in the window where retirement was definitely closer than ever and he had to begin to figure out what the next chapter of his life would be.
That all depended on Nina. He wasn’t giving her the final say in the matter. Only Sergio would ever know exactly when was the right time to retire from pro soccer. What he wanted to know was what Nina thought about various options he had.
The first and biggest opportunity was to shift from being on the pitch in a player role to potentially going into a coaching role. This had been discussed at length both with Nina and with the team. Though, if he was being honest, he never really saw himself as a coach. The business end of the game was the thing he hated the most. And in spite of all the planning and training that coaches perform, handling contracts was part of the job. That wasn’t his ideal next act.
Beyond coaching was transitioning from a player to a presenter. Being the guy on television describing the match to the viewers. In his years of pro play, he’d developed a great rapport with the press. He was comfortable in front of the camera. He had a natural talent for it. Like being a player, being a presenter meant traveling. This time potentially even more traveling than before. While he would love to take that job, he didn’t want to be away from his children anymore. He wanted to be with them and to be there when they needed help or had questions about life.
The one thing he did know was that he was going to miss it all. The sound of the fans in cheering and chanting. The thrill of a come-from-behind victory. The smell of the pitch right after the rain. The camaraderie in the locker room. So much to miss. So much to leave behind.
“Dad, if you retire, does that mean no more free tickets to home games,” Diego asked innocently enough.
Sergio laughed, “I guess. I’ll have to ask.”
“Then maybe you should keep playing for a few more years,” Diego joked.
“What, is a roof over your head and food in your belly not enough,” Sergio said with a smile.
“It’s great, but they always gave us good seats,” Diego said.
Sergio them looked at Diego as the smile on Sergio’s face widened slightly, “Diego, I just think it’s time. I look around the locker room and everyone looks so young to me now. I’m just ready to finally stop.”
“But I thought people retired when they were elders,” Diego asked.
“For normal jobs, yeah. This is sports. You have to be able to keep up with the young players. And, well, I’m just about able to do that. And if I don’t do it now, then I’ll miss out on even more time to joke around with you and your knucklehead brothers.”
“It’ll be cool to have you home more,” Diego said. “But, just so you know, mom can be a slave driver. Better clean up after yourself if you’re gonna be home all day.”
“Oh yeah?” Sergio said as he stood up, “you think she’s bad? Just wait till she comes to me to tell me you’re not listening to her.” Then he made a funny face at Diego.
Diego laughed, “Well, then maybe you should keep playing a few more years longer.”
Winterfest had arrived and the Alvarez household was prepared. Garland and wreaths hung on the walls, the tree had been placed in a nice corner with a wide amount of presents awaiting their named recipients. Sergio even brought out the candle centerpieces and set them up. Two nutcrackers bookended the kitchen breakfast counter.
The morning saw the presents opened. That was number one on the list.
Everyone got something they wanted and it was a great time.
The grand meal was, as always, prepared by Sergio. A big turkey dinner and the family even dressed up for it.
There was mirth and merriment with kids singing carols and Sergio and Nina asking if everyone was good this year.
The big event was the arrival of Father Winter, who came about 45 minutes late. No doubt even with flying reindeer, he winds up stuck in the San Myshuno air traffic.
Everyone got more presents. They had a grand time.
And then the day after, the household once more celebrated. This time Diego and Antonio had reached the teen years.
What was more, Sergio knew his own birthday was on the horizon. This helped him finally make the biggest decision of his life. He was going to retire from pro sports.