The 2014 Super Bowl was full of surprises

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"So, who’s coming over tonight? I can’t remember.”

In the car after church, I run the over the short list with Chris. We’ve opted for a small group this year, but I still feel like I’m not prepared. Maybe it’s the busy week we just buzzed through. Or maybe it’s the overcast weather. But something about this day feels disjointed.

“I think I need to go buy an onion,” I announce later that afternoon. A pot of chili simmers obediently on the counter, but I know that, like me, it’s lacking in zing. I make the short drive to Andy’s on autopilot, musing about sports and spirit. I’ve never felt much passion about the Super Bowl, after all. To me, it’s just an excuse to chat with my girlfriends and chomp store-bought snacks for several hours.

But this year … I sigh. This year I should get into the spirit. It’s our team — our moment! I try to muster some spunk, but instead, sense a yawn coming on.

Still, by the time our few guests arrive, I’ve buttoned up my fatigue in favor of joy at getting to spend time with my loved ones. My friend Kelley and her three boys traipse in, closely followed by more kids and their dad, a token man to enjoy the event with my spouse.

Before I know it, the game’s on, and hollers of glee issue from all corners of the house. Even the dog has some fun, snarfing a few snacks on the sly and garnering as much shouting as the first few plays of the game combined. I assume she feels important, but I’m too busy stuffing jalapeños with cheese and putting out platters of treats to take notice.

The food disappears as fast as I make it — except for the bland pot of chili — and by halftime, I’m done cooking. Leaving half the kids to fend for themselves and the cheese-filled chilis to grill on their own, Kelley and I don winter gear and set out to hike my favorite mile.

“It’s snowing!” she exclaims. “It’s so pretty!” Her face tilts up to the sky, and snowflakes dot her dark hair in the twilight.

Ahead, children scream like monkeys and race to the end of the driveway. At each corner they wait impatiently, and Josie strains at her leash. The twilight fades by degrees, leaving us to walk the last half in a magical, deepening darkness. My heart slowly warms as I watch the kids (and Texas-born Kelley) enjoy the spell this snowfall weaves. By the time we arrive back at home, I’m warm all over — not intoxicated with joy like the others — but a deep-down content, sweet and calm.

I saunter in, check the food, and sit down, not in my usual party-pooper location outside the TV room, but on the floor near my spouse, who moves to make room, then gives a yell.

“Nice one!” he calls in a rare burst of emotion. “We’re gonna win this for sure!”

And to my amazement, we do.

While the kids celebrate with balloons (and more shrieks), while the dog performs a leaping routine that sets us all laughing, I grin. I hadn’t expected this win. Not at all. But it’s not just the team that I’m cheering for. It’s this life.

At once fresh and familiar, mysterious and mundane, I’ve enjoyed the events of today far more than I could have hoped. I wave to our friends, send some surplus chili with Kelley, and start to work on the cleaning. The feeling is strange, and very new. But I’m surprised to find myself looking forward to next year.

Sarah Coleman Kelnhofer writes from College Place, where she hopes to find and enjoy simple things — like chocolate — in the midst of a life filled with complexities. Contributions to this cause may be milk, dark, or white — and should arrive in childproof packaging. At the back door. Very quietly.

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