The fascination really all began with cleats. I’ve always been a joiner and genuinely happy to be part of most any group. In first grade we were divided into three reading units. I was in the “blue” group. Of course, nothing distinguished us from the red or green group, and Mrs. Summerall was quick to point out that we were not competing. I then joined Brownies as soon as I could, frankly because I wanted to wear a sash with badges. No competition there either, but everyone knew I was part of that team. I was a member of Troup 75. It said so right on my uniform!

And then I saw the cleats.

I was raised with music and dance lessons and neither required a uniform. Mrs. Ellington didn’t have a “piano team” and I wanted to be a part of the team who wore cleats. If I remember correctly, we didn’t own a soccer ball, and I had played kickball at summer camp a total of three times. My mother signed me up with one rule. I was not allowed to quit in the middle of the season even if I was horrible and hated it. I had to finish with the team. I was horrible, and I hated it, but I loved those cleats. I also loved the knee-high socks with the double stripe at the top that matched our t-shirts. I loved wearing my team colors and my team shoes (even off the field) because, in my mind, folks would see me and think, “Now look at her! Boy, she’s part of a team!” No one ever recognized me as one of Mrs. Ellington’s piano players. Frankly, my teammates weren’t too concerned that I wasn’t a soccer wiz. I laughed and ate popsicles and did jumping jacks right next to the team star and I was just as much a part of the team as he was. Just for one season, of course.

I also played one season of basketball, two on the swim team, two with the tennis team, and quite a few years with the majorette line. Each season I sported jerseys and jackets, headbands and socks, all with tremendous pride even if I was watching from the bench. I joined more than a few clubs in high school that, until my arrival, did not have official “uniforms.” I convinced my friends that similar colored t-shirts or a smartly-placed identical scarf would make us unstoppable. In some cases, it did. In all cases, it gave us a bond.

Because cleats and tube socks don’t fit in well at the office, I wear a lapel pin. It’s my team jersey, my uniform. If I’m not wearing a FiftyForward lapel pin, I’m most likely in my pajamas. For me, that lapel pin is a reminder I have a magnificent group of teammates spread out across two counties and multiple locations. They have my back even if I’m on the bench for a game or miss a goal. Isolation, loneliness, and even crime are worthy opponents especially when the focus is on protecting older adults. We’re formidable and we’re showing up to play and win. I wear my “uniform” to remind me that I’m one of many on this great team.

They’re mine and I’m theirs. My uniform says so.

By: Sallie Hussey

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