"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

chariots of fire

Emotions run high during pregnancy and for some reason, these months have turn me into a train wreck at times.

Movies, commercials, crazy nothingness ... I get no warning, just the threat of bursting flood gates.  Celia and I stayed up late one night last weekend, watching Chariots of Fire and she laughed as I bawled my fool head off to the ending.  See?

Annie really, really wanted to join the track team season with her friends here at the end of school.  I tried to put her off because I know her, and running's really not her strong suit, and her asthma doesn't help.

But the magnetic pull of friends can drag us into things that we wouldn't otherwise dare to try ... for bad or for good ... so I let her.

She was excited. I felt that tug for a middle child needing to do something notable as well as fear for a sixth grader trying to make it among piles of 7th and 8th kids.  It's a trial run at the school this year, to add the younger class to the older one's sporting events so, sign up she did.

First day of practice last week, I picked her up and she looked itty bitty running across the field to my car. She came home discouraged.  She said she'd come in last from the warm up run which embarrassed her.  Then the coaches hadn't been very nice in reminding 6th graders that they were representing the entire school and needed to pull their weight on the team.


But, she'd committed and as moms do, I assured her I knew that she could do this.

The first meet loomed and having tried out for every event, the coaches posted their selected event assignments.  She dove into my car exhausted Monday and I asked excitedly what she event she'd be in.

Long jump? Shot put? A short distance run?

No, mom, she said visibly upset .... They put me in the 800, that's twice around the track.

Why? I flustered.  In my head, I kept going over a mother's worries.  They're supposed to know she's asthmatic and not super fast. It's in her doctor's physical report. Was no one paying attention? Were they not observing her practice struggles? Did she draw the short straw? Or were they just deliberately trying to discourage her into quiting?

I was angry and ready to call a coach but then Newel said, "Don't helicopter parent. It might not be pretty, but she can do it."

And Annie fretted all evening into the night about what the next day held.

And the older kids who'd done track in the past, whispered in my ear that she was going to die.

And then I worried both of us into the next morning, filling her full of advice like, "Slow and steady wins the race!" and "Don't try to compete, just keep your legs moving in a jog and don't stop or starting up again will be so much harder." and "Pace yourself from the start, forget about who's ahead or behind." and "Remember the tortoise and the hare, right?"

I thought about her all day yesterday until time to meet her at the track with the entire family cheering her on.  When we got there, we learned her race was the very last event.

So we waited anxiously.

The time came, the runners took marks, and Celia and I positioned ourselves at different sides of the track to encourage her steady pace.

At the gun, Annie took off laboring all the way around that track but she never stopped those legs from trotting a run.  Even a half track's length behind the pack, she pushed.  At one point an EMT paced her, then yelled to me waiting in the middle of the field, to have her inhaler ready.

She pushed down the final stretch, the last gal in, and the crowd of parents and waiting students clapped and loudly cheered encouragement along with her name.  People I didn't even know knew her, or us and I felt the flood gate bursting. The strength of that moment, watching my girl do something that I alone, knew was so difficult for her, so out of her comfort zone, as complete strangers helped push her through the end -- turned me into the weepy, crazy, pregnant lady, choking on her own encouragement at the finish line.

Thank heavens for dark glasses.

And darn that Chariots of Fire.

Both of us trying to recover ourselves, me tearfully shooting her up with the inhaler, she tearfully clutching her chest and trying to slow her racing heart ... she gasped that it was probably the hardest thing she'd ever done in her life so far.

But she did it. And lived to walk home a winner, if only to me.

Not just today, but tomorrow and the next one too,

Because yesterday ...

Though always notable to us, she proved to herself, her friends and everyone else, that she is a girl who can do hard things.


  1. Beautiful. Tearfully beautiful. I don't even have the 9 month excuse and it still got me! It is JUST what we want for our kids - we want them to have enough confidence to go beyond what they think they can do. I love your description of having to stand on the sidelines and watch, wait, and agonize. I fear this will be our lives..... for the rest of our lives.... as our children grow up.

  2. Ahh...we had one of those moments once in our family. It was so painful, and there was seriously a part of me that wanted to just tell my kids they didn't have to do the hard thing. But they did, and they were so proud of themselves! And I thought--this must be how Heavenly Father feels when He is watching us...

  3. Wow...what a great post Marlowe! Brought tears to my mama heart too!! And how fitting after just watching Chariots of Fire! I love to see them do those hard things and come out on the other side. What a life lesson for sure.
    have a happy day marlowe

  4. So awesome. I love this story. That was better than any 'she won the race' story. What an amazing girl! And I'm not pregnant and I cry all the time now. Is it age?

  5. Oh man, I'm not the pregnant one and you had me in tears. This is close to my heart, as I was in track and it started out a rocky road, but I'm so glad I stuck with it.
    Beautiful pictures, beautiful girl, beautiful post.

  6. I'm so proud of her! I ran the 800 in junior high and it was a killer...it's really really the hardest race. When my son would finish in CC towards the end I would say-just think of all the kids sitting around home doing nothing on this Saturday morning...you beat all of them! I would have cried too. She is just so darling and brave.

  7. I'm not even pregnant and this had me teary :) Beautifully written and I think as mums (or moms :) we can all relate to the feeling of seeing our kids do hard things!! Great job Annie!!! Rylan (my oldest) recently ran the cross country at school and his story is similar to Annie's! I was so proud I thought I could burst :) xo

  8. What a lovely thing, to watch your baby bird take flight. How wonderful when we let them prove themselves to themselves. I'm so glad you had someone to keep you from interfering and missing it :) I enjoy your writing very much- full of deep heart.