At the time of year when many Billet Mom’s are saying good bye to their young players, I send this one out to you. There is a chapter in the book that is pretty much dedicated to my first experience as a Billet Mom. Today I’m missing the young men that became my second family, so I wanted to write about what it meant to have them in my home.
A few years ago, when my son was 16 years old, we met a young man with big brown eyes and very long brown hair. He was a defenceman and since my son was a goalie, these two hit it off from the first moment they were on the ice together. I will never forget being in a hotel in Boston for a tournament and our son told us that his new teammate was going to be staying with us. I had a few thoughts of ‘we have no room’, ‘what if it’s awkward?’, and now the room is really going to smell with two bags of hockey equipment. I quickly reminded myself that I’d rather have these young teens with us rather than somewhere else where we couldn’t keep an eye on them.
From the second he walked through the door, I felt like I’d known him forever. He was the sweetest young man. He was the kind of kid that looked you in the eye when he spoke to you and always would ask how you were doing. I instantly liked him. By the end of that summer both our son and billet were signed to the same Junior team close to our hometown. Our son was able to live at home, but his new friend had no place to stay. Having billeted before, I knew the work and commitment that went into it so I never offered our home. We found out that they had a place for him but it would be a few days before he could get into his new billet home. We told him he was welcome to stay with us but would have to share a room with our son. I can honestly tell you that from the moment he moved in they did nothing but laugh, play mini sticks (at 16 years old), play music really loud and, before long, they became brothers. He also made a quick connection with my daughter. Often, she’d get home after school at the same time as him and they’d sit up at the breakfast bar and chat for hours.
I started to notice that day after day he’d pack up his suitcase and bring it to the rink because the coach told him that this would be the day his billet family was ready for him to move in. Unfortunately, day after day, he’d return home with his suitcase in hand because nobody showed up. It was heartbreaking and infuriating. I had thought of offering our home but I was concerned about the two boys sharing a room indefinitely. I was concerned this “fun” phase of living together might turn sour. My son approached me and said, “Can he just live here?” I told him all of my worries and he assured me that I had nothing to worry about. I then spoke to my daughter and she was totally on board. My husband liked him from the moment we met him as well. So, the next day he brought his suitcase upstairs and I told him to leave it here. I told him that I had called the coach and we were going to be his new billets. I remember he came over to me with his big infectious smile and crazy hockey hair and he hugged me. We were blessed to have him live with us for the next two years. He was instantly a part of our family and a part of our hearts.
In my book, there is a story of my first billet experience. The two young players we billeted were different but the feelings were the same on the day they left,
“Three years passed by quickly, and the day he moved out was a tough one. He was traded in his overage year, and he had about a day to pack his bags. We got the last of his things to the truck, and we all stood at the doorway to say our farewell. I watched my kids hug him and say good-bye. My husband shook his hand and told him good luck. He then came to me and put his arms around me, and I went into the “ugly cry”. The poor kid didn’t know what to do with me. I just knew it would never be the same again. We’d seen him through so much, but he wasn’t ours, as much as I told people he was; he had his own family. We were just people helping him on his way. Although I thought I understood that all along, I didn’t realize just how much I was going to miss being his billet Mom until he walked out the door.”
I’ve spent so much time talking about the gifts of being a hockey Mom but today I want to say that being a Billet Mom and getting to know these two incredible young men for a short time was an amazing gift. Thank you, Andy and Liam, for coming into our lives, being part of our family, and for forever being in our hearts. Once again, the gifts of hockey, there is nothing quite like them.
- Written by Allyson Tufts