I don’t remember exactly when I decided number twelve was my favorite. It was one of the first years of “travel team” soccer – which simply meant instead of staying on the fields in Haverhill, parents willingly spent their Saturdays trekking across the county in SUV caravans getting lost with printed out Mapquest directions and faulty cellphone service.
Once I was on a travel team, it meant picking a number for the back of our jerseys – and for a little girl, this was extremely important for some reason. One year, I was advised by my father to pick the number one – which at first I loved, and then didn’t, because of snide remarks from the other girls on the team (and, looking back, seriously Dad?!). I want to say I was given 28 at one point, then I reduced that to twelve. Or there’s a lingering memory of another older girl with the number – but I can’t make out if that’s true or not. I vividly remember the one year someone grabbed it before It became my number and I sat on my futon with my see-through pink telephone trying to decide what number to choose now that mine was taken. In m memory, I took about fifteen minutes to decide with an extremely patient coach on the other end. I decided on 24 – because it was double 12. The year later, I got it back, and as my confidence grew on the field, I found it easier to claim the number every season.
My artistic side would say there’s something to the simplicity of the number – one and two together, it’s not too high of a number, but not too low. If it’s in some type of calligraphy, there are just enough loops. It’s dainty? It’s my birth month? I don’t know. It’s just my favorite.
On the freshman soccer team in high school, I wasn’t outspoken anymore – coming into a school of over 2,000 from a class of 34 in a Catholic school. When the athletic director came rumbling out to the field with a golf cart full of jerseys, the grab began I stood in the back, politely asking if someone could grab me the number 12, because I thought that was how high school worked back then. Thankfully, a girl that would turn out to be one of my closest friends through those crazy years stood up and got me the number, and so it was mine again.
Right before graduation, I rounded the corner into the athletic director’s office again – just to remind him one last time that I would very much like my jersey pretty please. They’d replace the uniforms soon anyway, I’d argued. He waved me out of the office with a getouttaheyah. That number was part of my identity in those years. Opposing teams knew me by it. We owner our numbers like our nicknames. I was number twelve through my Dad’s death, and through figuring out who I was. It was my confidence through it all. It was more than a shirt with a number on it to me. Twelve years later, that #12 jersey, signed by both of my coaches, is tucked into my closet.
It’s been years since I’ve worn the number, but it’s still my favorite, and I still notice it – like today for day 112. It’s back to just being my “favorite,” but with an added bunch of incredible memories buried inside the loops to make it even more meaningful.