October 3, 2022

tailgating my way: he's a beacon, damn it

I need to wrap up the washing machine story. Let's just say the old washer is still residing in my master bedroom, as we continue to embrace our hillbilly lifestyle. I'll share the end of that saga once I know how it all turns out. 


The best thing about having 3 kids away at three different colleges is visiting them. Tank's Jesuit school has no football team. He'll be home for a 9 days starting Oct. 7th. SO . . . I arranged to tailgate at Ed and Mini's schools so that Tank could accompany us. Back to back tailgate weekends. 

I'm conserving on calories now in preparation. 

While you read this, please mull over what tailgate recipes you'd like to share in the comments. For Ed's school, the game is at noon. NOON! I'm thinking breakfast burritos. Thoughts? 


Tank:  What? You've planned both of my weekends home. I want to work and make money since I want to go abroad next semester. 

Me:  Um, this is going to be a ton of fun. You're welcome. 

Sometimes Tank's obsession with making money is great, and sometimes I feel he needs to He's NOT hurting for funds. Don't get me wrong, hard work is a great quality - but time with family revolved around him is a wonderous thing (says his mother, a long suffering middle child). Plus, if we showed up to Ed's college and we did not have Tank in tow, Ed's fraternity brothers would cry in their beers. They've shared some good times with Tank over the yeas, and he's a fan favorite. 


In July I found out the day before the ticket lottery that as parents of a Notre Dame student, we'd have access to up to 8 face-value football tickets. I studied my calendar and tried to predict stuff. 

My sister, Marie, had/has kids at ND, but she offered me no tips ie:  "you'll have the option to buy football tickets", or "join the FB page for class of '26 parents - that has lots of info."  

Thankfully, Tank's good friend's mom 'Martha' is full of tips. Her son swims there.

Any who, Coach was scheduled to teach a handful of times in the fall. Mini and I chose our tickets during our assigned time slot. Rest assured, this sounds easy but of course there was an issue with our sign-in and we were in mini-panic mode till it worked. We chose cheap seats, yet still pricey, if you know what I mean. 

We hoped for a warm weather game, so I chose Sept 17th. Coach was not teaching. I also chose Oct. 15th, because Tank would be home for a week for fall break. Guess what? Both dates ended up having conflicts: 

Conflict #1:  Tank shared the day AFTER ticket sales:  "Sept 17th is Creighton's parent weekend." Not missing that. Way too much fun. We sold those tickets. 

There's a FB page football ticket/exchange strictly for parents of current students. Tickets can only be sold for face value, or less. Great Martha tip. 

As we drove home after dropping a sobbing Mini off, I vowed to attend the Sept 10th, first home game of the season. 

Reg and Curly playing bags in an
 empty spot across from our car.
*My  version of 'going to the game' -  perfectly content to get to campus (solo if necessary), see my kid, tailgate with whoever, and drive the 1 hour 45 min home . . . in other words, I did not need to attend the game. Shh, don't tell my parents or my siblings. They'll wonder if I've hit my head. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy football, but I'm definitely willing to take it or leave it. I'm also OK forfeiting my ticket so someone who really cares can attend. I'm grateful for the excuse to go see my kid though. 

Although Coach was teaching 9/10th, that's the only weekend we could swap out for the 9/17th 'oops'. Looking ahead to next year  . . .

Me:  YOU'RE NOT TEACHING DURING ANY HOME ND FOOTBALL GAMES. *Best to keep our options open. 

I was preparing to attend the Sept 10th game with Coach's sister, her daughter (who was in the adjoining bedroom cheering for Curly during the hilarious and memorable tampon attempt, if you recall), Curly, Reg, and Reg's friend. I texted my SIL that I was fine sending the kids into the game and bypassing being a ticket holder, in case that aligned with her preferences. 

SIL:  Um, if I'm going to ND, I'd prefer to go in the game. (just one more reason she might think I'm nutty, but I know she loves me anyway, so there's that).

We were the only people in the shade
and it was a cooker. The seats are
 just benches, but if you end up in the
 top row like us, you can
lean up against the wall.
#winning - meaning, we were
 winning, unfortunately ND was not
 winning, but when it isn't your
 obsession, it is easy to move on. 

I scurried to FB and found us 6 discounted tickets together in the nosebleed section. 

As the date approached I was busy making Mini admitted that our tailgate was stressing her out. Understandably. She felt pressure to come and hang out all day with us. She wasn't sure if she could steer her new friends to my tailgate. I assured her that she could stop by, say hi, and be on her way. We could meet up after the game and attend mass together, etc. 

I wanted a tough-to-find parking pass close to the stadium. If I was off the beaten path, I knew it would be challenging for Mini. I also figured that Marie would be in the premier lot (although at this point she hadn't shared her game day plans with me). My sister  wears her Notre Dame alum status like a feather in her cap. I refused to do my first tailgate as a half-ass, out in the boonies kind of thing. 

Hard to explain but all four of my siblings either went to Notre Dame or married someone who did. They've all had tickets at their disposal for years, along with  my dad who is an alum. It's sort of a secret society/special club and I didn't want to flub my way through my first I-have-a-kid-here experience, and look like a rookie. 

I bought an insanely expensive parking pass on StubHub. The next morning a mom on the ND FB page responded to my old-ish request after I'd given up hope:  "I HAVE ONE." Face value. Shit. 

Martha assured me that I'd have no problem selling the pricey Stub Hub one. I took her advice, bought the face value one. My blood pressure stabilized a few minutes later when someone on a different 'charge any amount you want' FB page bought my StubHub parking pass for the amount I paid for it. Bullet dodged. 


The tailgate scene at Notre Dame is nuts. Some people use flags on top of their cars to help friends locate them in the sea of cars. A few nights before the game, I bared my soul to Coach.

Me:  You're not gonna like this. You're gonna think I'm crazy, but I have a vision and I might need your help. I want to hoist your old Gumby costume on top of the car while I'm tailgating. He's green, so he looks like a fighting Irish guy. It'll be hilarious. He will be a beacon. 

*I may or may not have initially said that I wanted to 'mount Gumby' (implied:  on top of the car.) Coach may or may not have asked me to re-phrase. 

People, I'm here to tell you . . . dreams do come true. 

See, easy to spot. Easy for Mini to find
 us. Also, a great way to make friends. I gave
one man a beer for attempting the Gumby
theme song. People stopped to take
photos. Not gonna lie, pretty proud of
making my own fun while tailgating at a
 previously 'off-limits' place. My SIL kept
 saying, "I'M GUMBY, DAMN IT."
Anyone else remember the Gumby skits on SNL?
The back of his shirt says GUMBY.
I didn't really need Coach's help. My friend with the lake house gave me a pool raft that they were done with, which made Gumby erect. *couldn't resist. 

Another friend lent me her kitchen step stool. Wedging that between his legs (now I'm  getting carried away) was the trick to give him balance. 

I bought a 3x gray t-shirt at Goodwill, plus fabric paint. The day before my first tailgate with a kid at Notre Dame I prepped food, then painted Gumby's game-day shirt. Then I folded him in half and wedged him into the back of my minivan. 

My SIL:  (upon arrival to my house EARLY Sat morning) Oh, am I driving separately? 

*she didn't believe we had space for the two of them. Silliness. We're just a little tight, that's all. 

Words I never thought I'd say:  I hope all of the food fits, because at this point Gumby is non-negotiable. 


Conflict #2 will be shared in my next post. Hit me with your fav tailgate recipes, the ND game the 15th is in the evening. Chili? Might be hard to keep warm. The one the 8th is earlier - breakfast type stuff? Open to suggestions. Do you sometimes think outside the box and do weird stuff that makes your spouse/friends think you are nuts? 


Nicole said...

Wow, this is a lot of fun! I have never been to a tailgate and so it has never occurred to me about food, giant Gumbies, etc. Looks like fun!

Pat Birnie said...

Wow that’s brilliant! I hope this made your tailgate a fun spot for Mini’s new friends as well. I’ve only been to one tailgate, at a football game in Buffalo. Sadly they aren’t a “thing” here in Ontario.

Colleen said...

I've never tailgated, but it seems like it has a cult following. Gumby was such a great idea!

Nance said...

You are one committed individual. I cannot imagine doing ANY of that, ever, for any reason.

Your Gumby idea was stellar. The downside(?) of it is that now, you have to do that all the time. You're now The Gumby Tailgater.

Kari said...

I love Gumby! I, too, have never tailgated before. When Anna started college, we never went to any of her parents' weekends. It was so chaotic those weekends, and she was never really interested in participating in those activities. I'll love living vicariously through your stories! ❤️

Ernie said...

Nicole - Well, tailgating is very fun. Good weather is a key component, and making the car easy to find another. I do what I can. ;)

Ernie said...

Pat - Mini did bring a few girls over, or flagged them down as they walked by. A crowd of friends is tough to take charge of, and that was her fear - that I'd be disappointed if she didn't attend with a big group of friends. I assured her that was not necessary. My SIL and I would have a great time regardless. I hope when we tailgate with her on Oct 15th that since her friend group is a bit more manageable, that she will bring more of them over.

Ernie said...

Colleen - Cult following, yes. Some people go ALL out - they bring televesion sets, etc. We just bring large Halloween costumes. Hee hee. It was a hoot.

Ernie said...

Nance - You crack me up. Well, good to know your limits. I am all about it. We like it when our kids invite their frieds over here in high school because we like to get to know their friends, etc. I am always willing to whip up some appetizers, etc. Tailgating is similar, but we just bring the food and drink to them at their college, but meeting the friends and other people we know who are associated with the college is a lot of fun. Weather permitting.

I am BANKING on being known as the Gumby Tailgate lady. Such a great way to make friends, start conversations, etc. I only have four short years with Mini there.

Ernie said...

Kari - Gumby had a rough week, will share that story soon. I love Gumby too. Super happy to have found a new purpose for him. I have been online trying to find a t-shirt for him to wear at Ed's school this weekend. His school is red, so I need a 3x red t-shirt because he wouldn't be welcome at Ed's school if he was decked out in ND wear. It's gonna be an interesting couple of weeks. I'm confident that I will be full of stories by the end of it.

Suzanne said...

Oh my gosh, the Gumby idea is inspired and turned out so well! Love it! I feel like if you are lucky enough to be affiliated with one of those football schools, why NOT go all out?! It's so fun!

joymariecooks said...

Gumby is an awesome idea! I've been to an ND football game and since I don't care at all about football I mostly enjoyed hanging out with our friends who were ND grad students and watching the people who were mega fans lol

Ally Bean said...

I don't think I've ever been tailgating, although maybe I done that and forgotten. Considering the amount of drinking that centers around football, could be. I like the giant Gumby. One of my favorite sayings is: Semper Gumby [forever flexible].

Beth Cotell said...

I absolutely love the Gumbi! I am assuming that he will be a fixture at any and all of your future tailgates! Chili is a great idea. I got a dish on Amazon that keeps things warm for 4 hours. Not sure if that's enough time for your tailgate or not factoring in driving time. It was call Pinnacle Insulated Casserole Dish if you want to check it out.

Ernie said...

Suzanne - I like your version of my idea as 'inspired' vs Coach's version which is probably just 'she so crazy.' Ha. Yes, people do go all out and it is a lot of fun to be able to participate.

Ernie said...

joymarie - I feel so similarly. It is fun to go and participate and people watch, or check out the spreads that people bring - especially if the football part is just secondary.

Ernie said...

Beth - I do believe that Gumby will be attending our future tailgate events. In fact, I was back at Goodwill tonight. If he fits, I'm going to bring him to Ed's school, but he will not be well received if he is wearing an ND shirt. I got him a red and gray shirt. I have to get the front to say Ed's school. And make a ton of food. Busy, busy. I am going to look for that casserole dish on Amazon. I might need to order that. Thanks for the suggestion.

Ernie said...

Ally - I am out of order in my responses. This is what happens when one sits in a car outside of a kid's practice and tries to accomplish things. I'm laughing that you may or may not have attended a game but cannot recall. Beverages do flow at these things. It is nice to have hotel rooms at the two weekends coming up, so we can relax. Well, as much as possible while Reg and Curly are home alone. I had not heard of the Semper Gumby saying. So funny. My Gumby had a run of bad luck recently, but he seems to have recovered. More on that to follow, but if you think about it - you can probably guess what caused his downfall. ;)