Friday, July 31, 2009

A Room of One's Own

I have a confession to make. Although I've missed my husband and daughter this week while they travel, I've enjoyed having my bedroom to myself.
When I was a little girl, I shared a room with my older sister. Somewhere around 10 or 11, I moved into a tiny, closet of a room with a bed that had built in drawers, which I loved. My room is where I went to write and read and dream. In college, in grad school, I shared a dorm room or apartment. Then, before I was married, I had a whole apartment to myself for a few years. For the past 19 years, I've been sharing my bedroom with a very thoughtful man, who makes the bed each morning when he gets out of it, still... to have a room of one's own, ah...
This week, when I get up at 5 or 5:30. I turn on the light rather than groping around in the dark. I don't have to worry about setting out my running clothes and hanging my work clothes on the bathroom door. I leave the door of the bedroom open so a breeze wafts in from the bedroom windows while I work on my computer here in this square hallway/office. I sit cross-legged on my bed facing the darkened windows to meditate and visualize. I put my hands palm up on my crossed legs and feel the possibilities in my palms, the open palms that can easily receive or give. A deep breath that I feel and hear in the quiet of my room. I open my eyes and look at the treetops through the three-paned, Arts & Crafts window. I am at peace.
In a few days, the rest of my family will be home. I'll mute my computer while I work early in the morning and I'll tiptoe out of the bedroom in the morning, trading strong arms and a warm body in my bed for the privacy that I'll have all too soon when the kids leave for homes of their own.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ambivalent Book Review

I managed to read an entire book this summer, what with all of the work and grading papers and preparing for the French visitor. I like the way Adriana Trigiani writes and I've enjoyed her stories set in Appalachia. Very Valentine is set in New York City and the main character takes a trip to the home country, Italy.
The main character Valentine is 33 and she makes custom shoes with her grandmother. Trigiani has some beautiful description of clothes and shoes in this novel. I guess what separates it from Chick Lit is that she doesn't just drop names of designers, but gives some real details about the clothes and shoes. Valentine's a likable character and her family has a number of idiosyncracies for her to deal with.
The twist in the plot here (spoiler alert) is that while debating the merits of two hunky Italian men, the heroine ends up choosing to be alone in the end and focus on her career. I can understand that the author was trying to show that women don't need men to be happy. I agree, but that's another blog post... The ending just fell a little dead, especially since it was left open that she would always love the American Italian guy, but they were both too busy with their careers. And she would see the Italian guy again in the upcoming year.
The heroine, Valentine, also took a lot of crap from the Italian American guy. He cancelled night after night; he said he'd meet her in Capri(that's right, Italy) then didn't show because of work. And one night she walked in the restaurant he owned and found him with a blonde who was interviewing to be a maitre'd. The two were flirting and touching. Problem was that he had said he was having electrical work done, not interviewing a maitre'd. With each snafu she blamed herself for not being "present" enough for him. In retrospect, that really bugs me. Why do woman always have to take the blame if something is going wrong in a relationship? She even managed to tell him she was sorry, and I was left wondering for what. Sorry I interrupted your date with a blonde? I should have called ahead.
So, even though she took a strong stand at the end, it didn't seem true to her character. I would have liked to see her get mad at the way he treated her instead of ending with an "I'll always love him."
What do you think: do women always blame themselves when a relationship fails?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Now It's Summer

As if the weather could see the calendar page ready to turn, today became hot and muggy. I stood in the garden and breathed in that earthy smell, shrugging off the bugs that landed on my bare arms and feeling the air thick around me.
July has been almost cool. We haven't had the air conditioning on at all. I think the French would call it "fresh." Our skinny French girl has spent a lot of time under the throw blanket.
I walked home from the garden with a bag full of tomatoes and two red peppers that are candy apple red. I'd already told the boys that I wasn't cooking this week. What I meant was, I wasn't cooking for them. I made some risotto with apricots and white onions for myself. I had a side salad of fresh tomatoes with vinaigrette, and for dessert, a peach cobbler.
Seeing the end of my five-week classes gives me a chance to breathe. I feel taller, as if a weight has risen from my shoulders. I sat and read a book tonight after I ate. I still have lots of papers to grade and a class to plan for tomorrow and the next day, but the end is in sight. I might have a life again someday soon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Long-Distant Reassurance

Being a mom far away from the happenings doesn't remove the stress.
6:16 a.m. Earl texts: "Grace is up and getting ready. Seems OK."
I reply to him then message her:
6:18 a.m. "You can do this. It's what you are good at. Your talent. Well -- one of your talents."
That's a take off of a David Sedaris story that always makes us laugh. He and his mother overheard someone talking about their house being on the garden tour, "Well, one of our houses," the woman laughed. And he was amazed at the insouciant manner that she could throw in the extra house. I knew it would make Grace lighten up.
6:59 a.m. Grace replies: "Haha! Thanks mom i love you.
6:59 a.m. I text: "I love u too."
7:47 a.m. Grace texts: "Issue...difficult to get my warmup suit on. What am I going to do with my fast one? Im scared and tired and need you."
That fast swim suit is a bitch to get on. It takes careful tugging and pulling, like trying to stretch delicate faberge eggs over your entire body. It is worse than the smallest pantyhose or girdle. Luckily, they have been made illegal as of Dec. 1, so only a few more months to wear it.
Each time Grace has worn it, I've stood outside the bathroom stall and sometimes inside the stall, helping her tug it into place. Not this time. She's on her own.
7:50 a.m. I reply: "Pull it up high on your calves to start. Borrow plastic bags for your feet."
The plastic bags help the foot slide through the tight opening.
7:54 a.m. "Ugh. Maman im scared and tired. Im so nervous. i wish you were here.
7:55 a.m. I tell Grace: "You can do this. It's just a swim meet."
7:57 a.m. "A big swim meet. I miss you. Need a hug. Can't go upstairs."
7:57 a.m. I reply: "Just do it. GO"
8:01 a.m. Grace texts: "Hmmm! I love you
8:03 a.m. I reassure her: "YOU ARE THE BEST"
8:04 a.m. "Ok"
9:02 a.m. Grace texts: "Got my suit on. Going up to see dad."
9:05 a.m. "Yea!"
What a relief. When she put that suit on at championships, it was so hot in the bathroom I thought we were both going to pass out. She got blisters on her fingers from pulling it up. I knew things would be better once she was dressed.
9:50 a.m. Grace texts: "They're streaming live from if you can/want to listen to us..."
9:50 a.m. as I'm walking toward the class I have to teach: "Awesome. What time?"
She tells me 11:50 and asks whether I'll be in class.
9:52 a.m. "Not at 11:50. I will watch."
9:54 a.m. She replies from the pool deck:"Yay!"
So I let class out a little early and zoom home. I call ahead and ask Tucker to find the website. They're running about a half hour behind, so I have time to call my parents and help them figure out where to watch for her.
12:12 p.m. The stress is rising again for Grace: "Are you home?"
12:13 p.m "Yep. Watching. How many events before you?"
She told me there were two more events so I sat in front of the computer screen. Spencer pulled up a chair and I stayed on the phone with my parents. My mother was getting ready to run to the hair salon. She brushed her teeth, hurrying back to the computer just before Grace's relay.
I saw the backstroker jump in the water with her little flourish, pulling her knees up high. And they were off, at the top of the screen. They were first or second the whole way in backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and then Grace dived in the pool. I watched her long arms, a blur on the computer screen, spin in the water. I couldn't see her face or tell if she turned her head to breath. And from the angle of the camera I couldn't see if she finished first or second, but she had done it. She had swum at the national meet.
12:49 p.m. I texted: "Great job. I watched u the whole way. Nena and Gran watched too."
1:17 p.m. "Aw really! Thank you i love you guys. It felt awesome. And of course now that its too late, i swam the cut for the 50."
1:18 p.m. I replied: "Nice. This fall"
1:25 p.m. "Oh yeah"
She called later and told me that their time was fast enough to qualify for winter nationals next year in Ft. Lauderdale and summer nationals next year. This time, I'm definitely going. Handling the mom thing is so much easier in person than by text message.

Monday, July 27, 2009


This week, my house is free of a French accent. That's because Marie left this morning with my husband and daughter to visit the East Coast. It sounds so metropolitan, doesn't it? But it isn't New York or even Boston. They're staying near the University of Maryland and they'll be visiting Washington, D.C. and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on the days when Grace isn't swimming at the National meet, before they drive home again.
My sons were resistant to the houseguest before she came. "The house is too small," they insisted. And, although they were right, we're making do. She has a twin bed in Grace's room that replaced the sturdy Crafstman style desk there. The boys asked again tonight why we invited her. My reasons are many.
It's always good to meet people from different cultures.
It seemed perfect to have a French girl the same age as Grace.
But, and this bugged me, no one else offered to host her. We're in a city surrounded by fairly wealthy people with houses so big that there are rooms they never use, but no one else offered to have her stay with them. I've started working on a theory that the larger someone's house is the less generous they become. Maybe if the space is small, it feels like everyone can give a little without being imposed on too much.
Marie laughs a lot. Much more than most French people, I think. She's helpful, always asking if we need an extra hand preparing dinner. She pulls glasses from the cabinet and sets them on the table as we're nearing meal time. Okay, I tell the kids, this is helpful, even if everyone else then goes to the cabinet and pulls out their own glass and fills it before coming to the table. Then after dinner, we replace the empty, unused glasses that Marie set out. I can picture the ceramic water pitcher and the bottles of wine that probably grace her dinner table each evening. My kids are used to pouring their own milk or turning on the tap to get water.
The visit has been full of interesting incidents so far. She tasted her first Pop Rocks on the night she arrived. A group of girls at a graduation party urged her to throw a handful in her mouth. She did and this was her reaction.
The next day Grace took her along to a car wash that the swim team hosted to raise money for their National team. As you might expect from teenagers, there was more spraying of each other than actual washing of cars. But she got to know the swim team and she'll be spending a lot of time with them this week.
They spent another day of swim championships holed up in a tent while the rain poured outside. The swimmers would dash from the tent when their events were called then huddle inside towels, sweatshirts and sleeping bags between races. They left the tent a mishmash of smashed oreos and discarded Vitamin Water bottles.
Last night, when Spencer announced he wasn't going on the trip out east, and my husband began to lose patience with Grace's worries about swimming in the big meet, Marie climbed from bed and asked if Grace wanted something for stress. Something homeopathic? She poured the white pellets into a mound in her hand and gave them to Grace. A bit apprehensive, of course, Grace took them anyway. She's sweet, this French girl, and she does have to live with us, so she may not have gotten a bargain. My hope is that they can be friends and that they'll stay in touch long after Marie leaves. That these two girls, who share a love of musicals and small animals, Jane Austen books and warm throw blankets, will visit each other across the ocean regularly, in spite of their differences.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Let Me Take You To - Funk Town

Things were sliding downhill this morning. Actually, it started last night. I'd have to say my overall mood was verklempt, to borrow a word from the Yiddish.
When the realization finally dawned on me that I was feeling sad, I tried to pin it down. I'm not that aware of how I'm feeling until I bite someone's head off, or, like last night, wander from the dishes in the sink to the laundry in the wash without accomplishing either. I just wanted someone else to come take care of it, and I knew my papers were waiting to be graded.
So, pop, came the realization that I was a little down. Then I needed to figure out why.
1.Today is the championship swim meet for the summer league and I work from 8 to 3. Oh, sure, I have some time while I sit in the classroom and the students are researching their essays, but I can't drive the 20 minutes to cheer on my kids and get back to collect papers.
2. Next week is the national swim meet that Grace will be swimming in. My husband will take her, Spencer and the French girl to Washington DC. I will stay home with Tucker. I will work all week and wish that I was there to watch her or to drive to the Jefferson Memorial at night and watch the lights reflect on the water.
3.Work, maybe overwork, is getting to me a little bit. I haven't read a book in weeks. I don't have time. Sometimes I'll sit down with papers to grade while my husband has the Tour de France on, but that's as close as I've been to leisure time lately. Unless my morning runs count as leisure time, but often they seem like work too.
4.Seeing Grace's itchiness, her need for alone time, while we have our house guest worries me about her ability to go away to college and live in such close proximity to other people. Why am I worrying about something so far in the future?

So this morning, I found someone to give them a ride to the swim meet. They had to be there at 7:40 and my class started at 8. A friend said she'd pick them up at 6:30. She likes to get there early. At 6:15, I roused them. They complained. I fixed bagels and cream cheese. I gathered folding chairs and blankets and a bag of food supplies. We waited until 7:05 when the ride finally showed up. Am I allowed to be pissed at someone who is doing me a favor?
I finished getting ready for work, rushed to campus so I could print off the essay assignment, and the computers had all been disconnected from the printer. I couldn't print the assignment which I was giving the students today.
Bummed. I pushed the button for the elevator to go down three floors. Dead silence from the elevator shafts. Both of them.
I finally open the door of my classroom, a few minutes late, feeling even more verklempt when there, on the table next to my desk is a Tim Horton's box. Chad, one of my students, brought me donuts!! Donuts? That's the nicest thing anyone has done for me, well, today anyway.
I sent them off to the library.
"You should have a starting pistol," one of the students said.
"When I bite into the donut, go," I said. I held up the donut with crystallized sugar on it. "And, go." I bit into the donut and my day took a turn.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Welcome, I think?

On Saturday, our family squared our proverbial shoulders and prepared to change the rest of the summer. So far, it has been a summer of swim meets and game show network and late night lolling on the couch and front porch. That was before our house guest arrived.
Marie lives in Paris and she will stay with us in Ohio until school begins in August. We have never met her, or her family. She is a friend of a friend of friend, but she and Grace are the same age so we decided to offer her a place to stay.
We picked her up at the airport and she's been talking ever since. She's explained the school system in France, different types of flowers, climbing a glacier in France, well, the list goes on.
This French teenager is an easy guest to have. She's personable and offers to help out, but my own American teenager is bearing the brunt of the entertaining.
Marie smiles a lot and is giggly, like a teenage girl. Grace, my own not so giggly daughter, knows that she is, at heart, an introvert. On the second night when Marie fell asleep, she snuck down to the computer to spend some time with her facebook friends.
I started to feel some niggling doubts about the wisdom of a six-week visitor until Monday when I got home from work. The two of them were on the couch watching Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and laughing together. Grace dragged herself off to swim practice, came home to a dinner I had fixed.
We talked about activities for the next day. There was the zoo, or COSI the science museum, or the art museum, or the Harry Potter movie, which Marie hadn't seen yet.
"Harry Potter," Marie crowed.
I laughed and said that when Grace goes to visit Marie next year they won't see The Louvre or the Musee d'Orsay, instead they'll go from theater to theater watching movies.
"Now what?" I asked as we finished eating. I was grading papers, but I was willing to put them away to play cards or a board game.
Grace looked at Marie, "Mamma Mia or Emma?" she asked.
And they walked off singing, "Mamma Mia, here I go again, my my..."

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Now that I have "SiteMeter," I can see how people get to my blog. I'm trying not to become obsessive about it, but I was so excited to see someone from Hungary was reading my blog. Shout out to Hungary. Oh, and the Netherlands! Go Netherlands. And France, Canada, Mexico. I'm full of joie de worldwide visitors.
But, I digress, because what I found out was that many people are coming to my blog because of the article on ChiRunning. I hope they aren't sorely disappointed when they read all about my first and only attempt at ChiRunning. That one that ended with my trip to the emergency room and changing clothes on the highway exit. You can find the post on Oct. 10, 2007.
I'm sure people searching for ChiRunning want to hear how it helps heal sore joints and allows previously injured people to run for miles and miles without pain. Instead, they find me with my busted knee. That accident kept me from running for a good six weeks. When I did start running again, I got a stress fracture in my foot. So, I can't say that ChiRunning was the savior I'd hoped it would be. As a matter of fact, I'm going to have to say that it has to take a little responsibility for my fall. I'd been running for years and had never fallen. I'm clumsy the rest of the time, (we won't mention rollerblading and the torn ACL) but usually not while I'm running.
One of the techniques taught in ChiRunning is a slight lean forward to allow gravity to help move the body forward, thus running without too much effort. If I hadn't been leaning, the sidewalk would surely not have greeted me so quickly.
And what about that metronome thing that was clipped to my belt pinging at me to move my feet in rhythm? Shouldn't that bear some responsibility? If it hadn't urged me to move faster, maybe I wouldn't have tripped on that uneven sidewalk.
I'm running again, a fair amount, but I'm not ChiRunning. I haven't tried it again at all. My physical therapist suggested I stick with what I know, afraid that I might end up with another stress fracture. So that just leaves disappointed people coming to my blog in search of ChiRunning Nirvana and leaving instead with the bad taste of the emergency room visit.
Well, for today, they can leave with something else. I still have the book and the metronome thingy? Any offers? I can assure you that both were barely used, except to taunt me that ChiRunning is supposed to be injury free. It says it right there on the cover.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You, Sir, Are No Harry Potter

When my youngest got his glasses, they were oval shaped, and, combined with his messy dark hair, people began to tell him he looked like Harry Potter. He got it everywhere from friends, new acquaintances, and strangers. He'd dress up like a vampire for Halloween, his face white, blood dripping from his teeth and people would say, "Oh, you're Harry Potter."
It didn't matter how he dressed, they were certain he was portraying the young wizard.
I'll never forget the day we went to the eye doctor and he ordered the new glasses with the rectangular frames. After he put them on, we walked out and he said, "Now, no one will say I look like Harry Potter."
That same day, at a store, a kid called out, "You look just like Harry Potter."
Tucker's shoulders deflated. Would he never leave behind the Harry Potter comments?
I still don't see the resemblance. He has no scar on his forehead. He's definitely not magical because he'd use that to clean his room and get out of chores. He has brown eyes, not green, and he can't fly on a broom, although he does a pretty good job of skimming along the water.

So what do you think? Do you see a resemblance between my son and the boy wizard? Every good wizard needs a cat!

By the way, I did not make it to the movie last night and not because calmer heads prevailed. It was because tickets were sold out. My family went today while I was working. Grace loved the movie and said it was her favorite. The boys and Earl both declared there wasn't enough action, and they aren't talking in the love department. Apparently too much love, not enough mayhem.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To See Harry Potter or Not To See

I'm not one of those people who is really debating whether to see the new Harry Potter movie. I will see it. The only problem is deciding when. My family is going tonight at the midnight movie. Well, everyone except Tucker who is spending the night at a friend's house and said friend lives in a family that doesn't believe dinosaurs existed, much less that something like Harry Potter could not be evil. He will have to wait to see the movie.
But Grace and Spencer are going with a group of friends who will dress up like Rita Skeeter, Snape and Hagrid and join in the raucous fun that is HP. These kids all grew up together. Not just my kids and their friends, but with Harry and his friends. They all got letters when they were 11 inviting them to Hogwarts. (We were the ultimate nerds.) They loved the books and have reread number six in anticipation of tonight's grand opening.
My husband will leave work at 11:30 and drive to the theater to meet them, and they won't be embarrassed to sit with their dad. It's like a family reunion with a lot more killing and dueling.
The problem is that I have to teach at 8 in the morning. So, if I stay up until three, no way am I getting up at my usual 5 a.m. That means no morning run, no morning writing on my novel. That means I'll be groggy and ineffective all day when I'm already behind on grading papers and I get another batch tomorrow. I also need to prepare for Thursday's class tomorrow. I don't know. I'm just overwhelmed with all of the work I have this quarter, even though I chant every day, only three more weeks. I'm teaching two five-week courses, which means we shove twice the work into half the time.
So is the 153 minutes of escape going to be worth the catch up for the rest of the week? On the other hand, I heard this might be the best one of the bunch. What to do, what to do...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Two Bikes Passing in the Afternoon

This morning the temperature hovered in the low 60s as I climbed on my bike and pedaled off to work. This was the first time since Spring quarter that I've ridden my bike to work. The good thing about riding in the morning is that it's cool. The bad thing is rush hour traffic. I ride on the sidewalk for one section of road that is four lanes with concrete walls on either side. The rest of the time I ride on the road, claiming my lane, as I've been instructed to do.
The ride in this morning seemed to have a lot of stop and go. My rust-colored bag was slung across my chest and rested on my back. Whenever I took off from a stoplight, I'd have to readjust it. But the sky was the clearest blue ever and the air felt fresh on my face. I wore a sweater because it seemed a little chilly, but by the time I got to school, I had a small sweat spot between my breasts. I knew I should have dumped the sweater.
After working until 3, I hopped on my bike and started the ride home. The ride home always seems worse. First there's the hill and second there's the other hill. I was on the sidewalk section of the ride home when I looked to my left and saw there, amongst the traffic, a man on a red bicycle with a red helmet. He carried a gray backpack. I had to look again to be sure. Then I yelled, "Hey!"
There was my husband riding his bike to work downtown as I was coming home.
He raised a hand in greeting, and I wondered for just a minute if the gesture meant "Wait there," but I kept riding and I knew he had to get to work.
I'm way out of bicycle shape, but passing him like that reminded me of, guess what? Of course, our bicycle trip in France. We rode from town to town in Provence, carrying all our belongings in panniers, also known as saddlebags. It really limited our purchase of souvenirs, but it was our best trip ever. Here's a photo from our stop at the Pont du Gard. As I recall, on our first day from Avignon to the Pont du Gard and on, we didn't take any food along. I was sorely in need of chocolate before we had finished that forty miles.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

All Things France

Is it just me or does everyone keep running into things French? Okay, let me be upfront that I am obsessed with France. I've visited probably 8-10 times and it has been the site of my best vacations ever. Lately, everywhere I turn I'm faced with French people, French discussions, French joie de vivre.
Every morning, when I'm home, my husband turns on the Tour de France. Mostly, it's a view of bicylists butts, but sometimes I get to see the countryside. Last night on the way home from the swim meet, we turned on The Prairie Home Companion and it was the French show. Every skit they used had a connection to France. Today as I'm updating my syllabus for summer session, I turned on Rick Steve's and his show was about Paris. The entire time people talked about things they'd seen and done in Paris. Mais, oui. It makes me feel a longing like homesickness because I want to go back so badly.
It makes me think of being there with the kids the last time when we were on the Bateaux Mouches and the lights of the Eiffel Tower sparkled behind them. And I remember our favorite meal there, on a side street near the Arc de Triomphe. We sat outside and we had a Parisian waiter who joked with the kids and didn't try to correct our crass American ways.
On another trip to Paris with my friend Michelle, I was oblivious to French men flirting with me. I asked a waiter at a tea shop how long they were open and he said, "For you, we are always open." I turned back to Michelle and said, "Oh, good, they're open 24 hours." She called me an idiot but my brain was too filled with babies back then to notice flirtation.
Earl and I have fleeting vacations through Paris, heading to Provence for long bicycle rides, but we've managed on recent trips to visit The Cluny to see the unicorn tapestry. Next time, I want to take him to l'Orangerie to see Monet's waterlily paintings in the round.
Earl says we are running into lots of French things because of the Bastille Day celebration on July 14th. Is it just a conincidence that Marie, a 17-year-old French student will arrive here on July 18th to spend six weeks? Maybe I'm attracting French things to myself. Keep it coming baby. Soon the attraction will be so great I'll be sucked across the ocean and land in the middle of the Champs Elysee

Thursday, July 09, 2009

This is Just to Say...

Have you heard this poem by William Carlos Williams? This is one of those non-apology apologies. Kind of like a non-denial denial. It says "Forgive Me," but the concensus is that he'd do it again.

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Apparently this one of those poems that people like to try to write themselves. Some people spoof it, some are serious. This American Life did a segment on it and was hilarious. My favorite was the one that went something like, This is just to say that I had sex with your sister during the wedding reception... But the cabernet was so sweet and cold... It's in the last section of the show from April 10, 2009 called "Mistakes Were Made" If you fast forward, you'll find it around minute 49.
I was inspired to ask my students to try their own poems. One of them was a break up letter to me, I think. I'll be surprised if I see him in my class again.
Here was my favorite:
This is Just to say
by Everest
I'm sorry I didn't take you to the concert
I tried to call
but my phone was not charged
The girl next door is a fan of the band
so I took her along
We had a blast
I'm sure we could of had a blast too.

And now, here's my attempt:
This is just to say
I stabbed your husband’s hand with a knife
it was only a butter knife.
Sorry, but his hand was reaching for the last brownie
and that hand,
so recently smacked away from my ass,
did not deserve the moist chocolate - too.

So, how 'bout it? Can you write a non-apology apology poem like William Carlos Williams?

Monday, July 06, 2009

It's Only Swimming, Right?

My kids drifted into swimming. They started with little summer leagues and my husband wondered if they'd ever learn to rotary breath (that's when they turn their heads to the side). They didn't seem particularly competitive. They'd swim their races then clamor for snacks. They were learning to swim well and I didn't mind those Saturday mornings at the pool.
Then five years ago, they started year-round swim team. At Grace's first indoor meet she had to swim a 200-yard race. She cried. She didn't want to do it. Couldn't possibly do it. I saw the swim coach dash to the end of her lane and lean over as Grace hung on the wall rather than turning around to swim another lap. Afterward, I got her some chocolate and asked what the coach said. "She told me if I got out I couldn't swim any more," Grace said. So she'd finished against her will.
"You were ahead until you stopped," I pointed out."I still finished ahead of that one girl," she replied, her fingers smeared with Snickers bar.
The next summer at the outdoor pool, Grace stomped out of the fence that surrounded the pool.
"Good job, honey. You won," I said.
"Yeah, but did you see that girl? She was trying to get ahead of me!"
That's when it clicked. She wanted to win. Maybe she hadn't realized all that time that those girls were trying to get in front of her, to touch the wall first.
Now she's the star of her high school team, her relay has qualified for a national meet and she's within four-tenths of a second of making a national time all on her own. She gets a slow trickle of letters from college coaches. Mostly small schools, division two or three, but sometimes division one schools.
"If it wasn't about the money, about a scholarship, would you want to swim at college?" I've asked her.
She says yes. She'll have a group to hang with. She'll belong.
But sometimes, when she's mad about a coaching change or when the new girl on the team flirts with the boys too much, she'll call me and say, "That's it! I am finished with swimming!"
I know she doesn't mean it. But would I be okay if she did? I think of all the money we've spent on swim. She quit ballet five years ago and I was afraid she'd really miss it. She didn't. I guess I'm okay with spending money on a sport or activity even if it doesn't lead to big college bucks. I guess I have to be.
Last week, though, a mother from our team told me a story that has me holding my breath when Grace swims. She talked of a boy who was on our team and he got a scholarship for $16,000 a year. When that boy made his national time, they upped it to $24,000 a year. Gulp! That's $8000 per year for swimming a national time. Grace is less than half a second away from potentially pulling in an extra $32,000. Can I pretend that this is no big deal? Should I not mention it because I don't want to put pressure on her? This is HUGE! I don't want to be one of those moms screaming with the raspy voice: "GET HER! CATCH HER!"
I still want to be the mom who calls, "Go Grace! Good job."
That's a lot of money though. And the next time she phones and says, "I've had it. I'm finished" will I swallow and listen, or will I say, "Get your butt back in that pool and earn your college tuition."
Maybe instead I'll just do the cheer my friend Susan taught me this weekend. She reminded me of the Saturday Night Live Spartan cheerleader skit with Will Farrell when they visited a swim meet. Their cheer went like this:
What's coming out of your speedo?
You got troubles, whooo!
You'r blowin' bubbles, whooo!"
And so, I spent the weekend looking away from high school boys in tiny Speedos, trying not to think of the cheer and trying not to expect Grace to earn her college tuition in the swimming pool. It's only swimming, right?

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...