It's that time of year when playing fields become ice rinks. (Bas Czerwinski/AP)

It’s that time of year when playing fields can quickly become winter wonderlands, but that’s not always all that wonderful. (Bas Czerwinski/AP)

The first cold stretch of late fall days reminds lots of people that the time to buy stuff for other people is closing in on them.

That weather reminds me of how glad I am that I will never again have to watch a youth soccer game in hard wind and cold rain.

I used to do that. On one especially raw and blustery Saturday afternoon, I found myself on a field northwest of Boston built, apparently, for maximum suffering. It was bordered on one side by a noisy highway, and on the other by nothing to break the gales that roared across the plain with what felt like serious intent.

My daughter, no idiot, removed her soccer jersey, put on her down parka, and pulled her jersey on again. It looked as if her team had traded for the Michelin Man. Or girl.

It looked as if her team had traded for the Michelin Man. Or girl.
Her coach, a man with no appreciation for the ridiculous, ordered her to remove the down parka and take the field. He didn’t order her to drop and give him ten push-ups. If he had, she’d probably have cut her hands on the frozen grass.

I don’t know who won the game. I remember feeling as if it shouldn’t have been played, which is the way I still feel. Games – particularly games involving children – are supposed to be fun. The only other excuse for children’s games is the iffy contention that they build character. Maybe whoever decided that game should go on thought that’s what they he or she was doing. More likely either or both coaches lacked the imagination to see the absurdity in the exercise, or the futility, or the potential risk that an especially insubstantial player might be lifted off the ground and blown on to the highway, or that everybody might suddenly begin screaming in pain.

So this is the season of the weather that reminds me of that day on tundra as frozen as any upon which I’ve stamped my tingling feet and wondered, as the Pilgrims must sometimes have done, why here? But it is also the season during which we are reminded to give thanks for our blessings. I hope yours are many and grand. Mine are considerable, and not least among them is that my days on barren fields like the one I have described are over forever.