As Eagles quarterback Nick Foles held his 7-month-old daughter on the winners' podium under green confetti Sunday night in Minnesota, I understood that the euphoria we were all experiencing had very little to do with football.
I had just done a version of the Foles Kid Squeeze myself moments earlier. We all had, in some way. And that was the real magic of Sunday's Super Bowl.
Life, like football, is tough. It's got an expiration date. It dishes bad breaks to good people. So you make what memories you can, when you can get them, and hope they leave a legacy of love.
That was what Foles, in that moment, was doing with his little girl. What I had done with my boys. What all of us, in our own way, were doing without even realizing it.
The pre-game hype, the who-will-I-watch-the-game-with rituals, the knots in stomachs and platters of hoagies and stacks of only-the-best tomato pie, weren't so much about finding the right juju to destroy New England's so-called Evil Empire.
All of that was about building lasting bonds that words alone do not conjure up.
There we were, diehard and bandwagon members of Eagles Nation, watching our team of bruisers crush an enemy city's on a bloody gridiron. The Eagles played with grit, skill, and heart against a team of killers.
And yet, this militaristic spectacle was subversively mining our hearts, serving as the vehicle that forges some of the most intense, lasting, yet fragile emotional connections we'll know.
In my case, this happened instinctively. I know that for many others, the same was true.
The Eagles were minutes away from defeating the fearsome Patriots for their first Super Bowl win in history. But my boys were nowhere in sight as we and others watched the clock tortuously wind down at a friend's Super Bowl party. I located the 3-year-old, scooped him into my arms, and urged my husband to do the same with our 5-year-old.
The boys begged to be put down. They wanted to keep playing with Nerf darts. We said no. It was time to watch history with Mommy and Daddy.
We squeezed them tight and turned their heads toward the TV.
It was my great hope that my sons would remember, above all else, the hugs.
The Eagles, too. But first, the hugs.
They'd only just learned to spell and chant the team name at school the week before. But in a matter of seconds, they'd now see Mommy and Daddy and all sorts of other so-called adults turn into hooting and hollering kids. Maybe they would wonder, years later, what sort of kids we'd once been. Maybe they'd remember the energy of millions of Philadelphians on the edge of our seats.
With just seconds left on the clock, I hopped and squealed. My little guy was startled as he bounced in my arms. He looked into my eyes, laughed, and squeezed my cheeks.
I turned and saw my husband and the 5-year-old hugging, too.
It's hard to put into words what this is all really about.
When you lose people you've loved at a young age, or when life doesn't go your way for a while, you worry that your kids will be alone before they should be. You hope that they will remember you and forever gain strength from those flashbacks.
Then comes something historic, like your city's first Super Bowl win. You give yourself up to the glee of a chase for the golden ring. All of this translates into memories so vivid they will live, like seeds, inside your children for generations.
"Being on the podium with my wife, Tori, my daughter, Lily, that's what life's about right there," Foles said when asked about that heart-melting moment hugging and kissing his daughter under the confetti. "We're Super Bowl champs, but time does stop when you look in your daughter's eyes and celebrate this moment."
An old college roommate told me she'd watched the game while wearing her late father's flannel shirt. He'd been a standout running back at North Catholic High School before making a living as a SEPTA mechanic. On Monday, she cried. And her brother took wine and a can of beer to their dad's and mother's graves.
Without failing, Foles said after Sunday's win, you cannot grow. To that, I say: Without loving, or losing, those we love, we cannot truly know the joy of winning.