“So, you’re a champion runner?”
I looked at Lucy’s teacher suspiciously. What was she talking about? Was it because I was in my active wear? Does my presence scream elite athlete?
“That’s what Lucy told us today. She said you win medals and everything. Told us all about it.”
Ohhhhhh. It’s all becoming clear now.
Okay. Confession. Not to toot my own horn, but I have won ONE—count them, ONE, athletic medal in my lifetime. It was a balmy June night in Panama City Beach, circa 2009, and my friend Bethany and I mustered up the courage to slug it out at the Billy Bowlegs Midnight 5K. People were dressed as pirates. Some ran in flip flops. We ran our hearts out with hundreds of our hearty mateys, and it felt like magic.
When I checked our times online the next morning, what did my eyes behold? My and Bethany’s names there for all to see, with medal-winning times for our age group. What? We hadn’t stuck around for the medal ceremony because we assumed we hadn’t won, and besides, it was midnight. Well, I wasn’t about to miss out on receiving an actual athletic award, so I stalked the race organizer until he agreed to meet me and give us our medals. I may or may not have told him that it was my six-year-old son, not me, who really wanted it.
He met us, passed over the pirate ship shaped medals, and I WAS STOKED. I literally called my parents. I’m sure that most of my co-runners were under the influence, but that fact is inconsequential. A “w” is a “w”, my friends, and besides, a 24 minute 5K is nothing to sneeze at. (Oops. Did I say that out loud?)
Because this was my only non-participation sports award ever, I’ve kept that medal all these years, in my jewelry box. I never, um, hardly ever, get it out myself, but if the kids are snooping and come across it, well, who am I to stop them from running their fingers over that bronze beauty and coercing me into reliving the details of that glorious night?
Lucy found ol’ Billy Bowlegs a few days ago, and in her eyes, that medal means her mama is a champion. A winner of races. She told her entire class as much.
It’s ironic, because I haven’t felt much like a champion lately. Dinnertime has been a disaster, with all the cooking fails and fights and name calling. Gone are the days of me sweetly whispering into my firstborn’s toddler ear all things Jesus and repentance and obeying with a happy heart. Now I find myself saying things to my brood like, “Really? Is that how you wanna play?” Same thing, right?
I haven’t felt like a champion in my cardigan I’ve worn for dayzzzz and my smeared eye makeup, courtesy of This Is Us cry fests. I haven’t felt like a champion in my messy ponytail—the one I finally had to take on over to the hair salon in response to one child’s comment that I should “keep (my) white streak, because it looks gansta.” I don’t feel like a champion as I contemplate paying my children actual money to drink green smoothies in the mornings, because I feel like their iron levels are plummeting, and paying them is the only chance I have of getting green, iron-rich sludge down their throats.
Things I could medal in today:
- Most days in a row spent wearing the same mom cardigan.
- Most minutes spent in the bathroom hiding from her children.
- Least successful sugar-quitter.
- Most tears cried over Jack and Randall and all those Pearsons.
But my preschooler sees me as a champion. She told her whole class so. She has them convinced I’m Usain Bolt—that winning medals in races and in life is what I do. “My mama is a winner!” she said.
Oh, the blind, adoring love of a four year old. Okay, fine. Today, I’ll take it. I’ll relive that beautiful night. I might even shrug off my cardigan and put my medal on and feel the humidity on my face as a man wearing an eye patch and a cape races past me. I’ll tell myself, “I may have crumbs an inch deep on my kitchen floor, but I am a winner!” And I’ll bask in the adoration of Lucy and her three-foot tall friends for as long as they’ll give it to me. I should have until nap time…or until Jimmy’s mom comes in with homemade play dough. Whichever comes first.