The last time I really felt like telling a story here – I mean, that feeling that drives you to put things into words – was last year. A year ago. And I didn’t do it. It was on a June weekend, the weekend of the Utah Valley Marathon, something I wouldn’t even have given a second thought about unless I were trying to drive up into the mountains that morning (sports traffic – how I love it) or if I had family involved. Which I did.
They have become runners. Not all of them. Just the crazy ones. Rachel included – but she and Lorri will tell you they have always been runners. I have never been one. Even when I was turning on the after-burners after doing a mile early in the morning before class in college – hitting that small space in time when you feel like you are skimming along the ground, weightless, like you’re running on waves of light, not the inert ground – the several subsequent moments of spitting metal into the sink witnessed that this was not for me.
Last year, Chaz and I got out of bed early (not as early as the runners, of course), and drove out to the mouth of the canyon to watch our people come down. When we got there, we connected up with Rachel’s family (who are our family too), and suddenly, standing there in the chill before the full dawn (Brian made me wear his hoody), peering into the straggling mass of coming runners for the faces that belonged to us, the day bloomed in my heart and I felt festive.
I hardly ever feel festive. I think this is due to the three decades of motherness I have lived through – it is hard for the stage manager to give herself into the excitement of the moment as the curtain goes up; she is too busy realizing that the props aren’t out there on the table where they’re supposed to be.
But that morning, I started to feel it. Excitement. A little bit of lightening of worry and responsibility. Just happiness. I almost forgot it wasn’t the 4th of July – but then, it couldn’t have been, or I’d have been worrying about getting the food done for the party and whether or not the children were going to blow their fingers off. On that fresh June day, we were just having fun – going to the Farmer’s Market, and the city-fest to the north – craft booths included. Best of all, Gin was there, so everything was great.
And I wasn’t worried about anything. Not even when I lost my driver’s license at the race. (Found it – somebody turned it in.) I was just excited for the day. It was weird. And I was astonished at the feeling. Astonished to feel so weightless.
Then here came Rachel and Nat – the kids ran out to meet them. “I’ll know when she’s coming,” Brian said serenely. “She has a beautiful stride.” So much pride in his voice. And he was right. This is how she looked after about ten miles of the half -
And that face is why she wanted to do the whole marathon this year.
Then came our people, also looking pretty good.
Ginna was here just for the race. I love the look she and G exchange here. As Lorri points out, Cam has never crossed a finish line without a camera in his hand. Not only that, but he will wait AT the finish without crossing till everyone catches up so that he can come in behind them, shooting the finish.
It was the second time I had dragged myself out of bed for this race, flying downtown to get to the finish line in time to record my runners – Lorri alone that first time. I loved to help the race people put the race bags into numeric order. It pleases my sense of ordered numbers – but keeps me nervous, not wanting to miss my runners’ big moment.
But this is all about last year. Last year and the Day I Felt Free.
Other good things happened last year, and I wrote about them. Like finally making my first soft pony. Read: finally getting around to tackling a sticky problem and wrestling with it till I had a pleasing thing to hold in my hands. But the process took so long, I didn’t glow when I finally got the end product. Which is kind of what it feels like when you write a book and it’s finally finished. You are too close to it to really FEEL finished.
And I never did write about this, though I really, really wanted to. About this time last year, there’s this knock on my door in the middle of the day – not expecting anybody. And when I answer it, there’s Laura – looking abashed and apologetic but also amused. (This is when they lived just down the block—in country terms, overlooking the horse pasture.) “I locked myself out of the house,” she said. And looking down, “Good thing Murphy left his shoes out on the porch last night.” She had walked the whole 1.2 miles from her house in Murphy’s boats.
I shot the verdant yard. But my heart hurt a little. What I have always loved about this particular angle was the brilliant collie who used to come around that corner, all flags flying – snowy white chest first and ears flowing back in the wind of his passage. Now gone. The picture is so empty now.
And I shot the beautiful house. But somehow, I haven’t even seen this this year. Too chained to Mom’s book to go outside. How could I do that? May and June are the MOST BEAUTIFUL GREEN MONTHS. So after I finish this, I’m going out to look at the beauty. Just look at it. And let the crazy new dogs remind me that love abounds.
And last year, I started reading again. I’m only half of myself when I’m not reading. So I decided I’d do this fabulous book-review site that families could use when they wanted to find good books. But somehow, writing the reviews isn’t as fun as reading, and having to find cover shots bored me and I am WAY behind on that now. Maybe terminally so. But I liked the header.
So those were some of the things I’m saying a year late. Now: This Year’s Race.
This year, Lorri’s sister and brother were running, too. And her dad was in town. And Cam and Lorri now have THREE little kids. Which means that somebody has to watch the kids while everybody else is at the race. Because Jack had never seen his kids bring it on home at the finish line, I figured it was his turn, and I bravely and virtuously (what a TOTAL child wimp I have become) said I’d sit out at home and keep the natives happy.
When the race was over, Cam came after us and hauled us to the race so the little kids could run their 1000K and we could all join in the energy. Gigi did not race this year. In case you’re wondering.
Finding shade. Gotta do it. Drinking slushy things. Gotta do it.
And sharing. I love the look on Lorri’s face here. So tender. And after running over thirteen miles.
Cousins and sibs, ready to race. Delighted mother with camera.
Our John, about to ship out to Afghanistan.
Finish arch with the floating tabernacle behind it.
I don’t know how we missed Cam and the boy cousins, but we did see Lorri and Andy. Andy really wore herself out, being carried that 1000K. Lorri’s face tells it all.
Rachel was doing the full marathon. But by the time the children had run their race and many of the people had gone home, she and Scarf Boy, who was doing the race with her, had not yet come in. I called her, worried about her hairline fracture. And she told me it wasn’t going well. That she was 18 miles in and walking. Worry. We waited. That dang girl – she cannot give up. Ever. At the time, I didn’t know why. Later, I would understand. That road was so empty for so long, I couldn’t take it anymore. Cam told me – “Go ahead and find her. We’ll walk down to get the car, then we’ll call you.” So I started to walk. She was wearing pink and Scarf Kid was wearing Gray. I strained my eyes, and set myself for a bit of a walk.
In the wrong shoes. What possessed me to choose a pair of shoes I hadn’t worn for a couple of years – (shrug). I mean, I wasn’t running the race. I didn’t expect to walk more than four blocks, from car to race. Back again. But by the time we’d been walking around the race for two hours, and I had covered about four long city blocks, I could feel the blister on my right heel. Four blocks, and I’m starting to limp. Honest – I could have done miles easy in the right shoes. I saw a couple of pink shirts. But they weren’t Rachel.
I just kept going. Teasing the officers at the intersections – all waiting for the last runners to come in. The stragglers went from sparse to seldom. Seven blocks. Eight blocks. Nine blocks – and I thought I saw them. I DID see them. So I stopped and focused and waited. And shot. Then shot again – but by then, I had seen the look on her face. She was running on nothing but grit. Limping. Turned completely inward. So I didn’t shoot any more.
She sent me what was supposed to be a grin, but was closer to a grimace, then shut right back down and slowed to a snail’s pace, her left hand on Scarf Kid’s shoulder, and most of her weight. I said very little, fell in behind them and limped in their wake. G called, ready to pick me up, but was happy to wait a while longer. I just wanted to be there for her in case I was needed. And on we went, back through those long blocks.
The finish line loomed, but never got any closer, not for a long time. The guys who were picking up all the orange traffic cones cruised slowly behind us for a long time. But when Rachel had to stop for a moment, they zoomed around us and went on down the street, harvesting the cones, erasing every trace of the race as we watched.
Rachel set herself and started forward again. Heavier now, but unrelenting.
Then, finally, about two blocks before the end, a group of other good friends was waiting and cheering. They scooped her up and suddenly, she rose to a trot – they all did – and left me in the dust; that blister was now torn skin and I was trying to walk on half a shoe. But the point was that I was no longer on duty – Rachel was as surrounded by love and literal support as any human being could possibly be. Job done. So I found Guy, limped about FIVE MILES to the stinking car, and went home where I downed 1 tall lime sherbet/citrus Fresca float some lunch (turkey) and a bowl of huckaberry ice cream. The sugar crash got me about half an hour later, and I slept the whole dang afternoon. So yeah – don’t think I’m going to be actually RUNNING any races any time soon.
I gave you a link up there. I’ll put it here, too, because the real story of Rachel’s race is WAY more awful and amazing than my little piece of it would suggest. And in the end, she finished. She went and went and went – and then she crossed the line and collapsed. And Scarf Kid finished too. Without ever having mentioned one word to his mother of his own pain and fatigue. It’s a terrific story. About terrific, if insane people.
Funny thing. We got home and G said, “Feels like the 4th of July or something doesn’t it?” And I smiled. I knew what he meant. But that was last year.