As I hoisted myself out of the Fairfield YMCA pool I was at eye level with the old starting block step. I immediately got a butterfly feeling in my gut, recalling all the times I had taken that first step. It was as nerve wracking and exhilarating as taking the stage. Taking that first step up meant you were committed to completing the event, whether it was 50 meters freestyle or 200 meters butterfly. Although, I believe the butterflies were appropriately a bit more rambunctious for the 200 meter butterfly…enough to wanna make me hurl. I think I could benefit from stepping onto a few more “blocks” in 2011 and really inviting the butterflies for a bit of play time in my gut.
I’ve probably run up that hill 1000 times in my lifetime, considering it’s one of 2 ways to re-enter my neighborhood and considering I’ve been running regularly since I was 14. The memories strung together in the film in my head as I bust up Bibury are the following:
*running into swarms of gnats in the humid Ohio August weather during high school cross country training
*chasing E or C up the hill
*being chased by E or C up the hill
*doing hill repeats after a shot of vodka and a nurse’s phone call in June verifying that I had mono my senior year in college
L and I went for a run along the Wabash River this morning on a barely snow packed trail. As we crossed the bridge when driving, before parking to run, I distinctly remember my father’s Wabash River Cat story. Every trip to visit Gramps and Grandma, we had to cross the Wabash River. My dad would always tell me that if I were super quiet I would hear the river cat. Now what a river cat would sound like is beyond me. Another town we’d pass through was the home of the infamous Francine. My father informed me that Francine had the unfortunate circumstance of getting her finger stuck in her nose.
Talk about one way to scare a little girl into never again picking her nose (although I still take a dig every once in a while;)
Today my Chicago cousins, aunt, mother, and grandmother and I met up in Lafayette, IN. We decided to repeat our holiday get together we used to do 20 years ago at a hotel in Lafayette. Sitting at the Lafayette Brewing Company for dinner, we recalled all kinds of memories we had of our summers at Bear Lake. My cousin L, who was no more than 10 years old the last time we went, asked, “Was there a lot of drinking up at Bear Lake?” I could feel my mom, who spent most of her time reading and drinking tea by the dock or shopping every nook and cranny in a 70 mile radius, rolling her eyes. “I recall trash cans full of beer and ice,” she said. “But it was only beer,” my grandmother of 86, drinking the house lager, said in defense. We all laughed. We finished the evening playing ridiculously comical Christmas charades with the help of some of Milwaukee’s best.
During my annual Christmas night run I decided to spend my 90 minutes touring my old playgrounds. The following is a list of the most memorable spots along the way:
Rolling Hills Swim and Tennis Club: where I spent most of my summers training, competing, sunning, boy watching, flipping burgers and eating Wednesday morning post practice eating donuts
The home of BH: the first boy I ever “slow danced” with (mummy danced more like it)
C’s family’s new home
Fairfield Aquatic Center: where I life-guarded one summer
1866 Doral Drive: our old house, I actually walked around the the backyard to see how different it had changed….no herb garden, no metal swing set, and the place where the dog and I had made our hand/paw prints in the curb had been replaced with new cement.
C’s next door house where I spent a good deal of my childhood playing and my first overnight experience that ended in oreo cookies, milk and a walk across the yard back home because I couldn’t fall asleep.
More high school friends’ homes where I’d hung out in the Hunter Road subdivisions: R’s, S’s, L’s
Harbin Park: I ran the back part of my high school cross country course in the snow. That brought back the freshest memories and a bundle of anxious butterflies thinking back on all the mental toughness that had been tested race after race and training after training. I recalled the summer nature camps, birthday parties, family Sunday picnics, walks with dates, science project research with dad and my first cross country practice where I was made fun of for wearing dangling teal colored earings.
Park, Red Oak, Evalie, Pleasant, Rolling Hills roads,: I ran past house after house where I had played and tried to grow up
A’s house: team mud fight and pool parties, M’s house: talent show dance rehearsals, R’s house: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun movie and slumber parties, L’s house: her big sister’s Cyndi Lauper music and learning that a screen door is not an exit through a failed trial
South Elementary School: the biggest playground ever!, my first bee sting, worms on asphalt on warm rainy days, Mr. C dressed up as a gorilla on Right to Read Week, playing chase with the boys and girls and having our classmate with Downs protect the girls, my mom’s eclectic and creative classroom and speech pathology “closet” office, arguing my right to be a member of the safety guard
“Do you smell something burning?” Dad asked as he paced around the living room. We were running the 40 year old electric organ that hadn’t been used in over 5 years. Instead of taking grandma to the midnight candle light service my parents did not want to attend (though it’s been our tradition for at least 20 years) I encouraged my mom to brush off her organ playing skills for grandma’s sake. This meant far more to my grandma than going to the service. My mom used to play carols on the organ every Christmas Eve while my grandma and I would stand in the wings singing (quite badly I might add) while my father videotaped and my brother busied himself in the front window dancing and/or mooning the potential cars passing by. In between carols my grandmother would reprimand my brother for embarrassing the entire family. In return, he spat back obscene comments, like the one I remember from one year, “Grandma, go sniff your vagina.”
It was a jolly good time.
It was the annual Christmas get together with high school friends this evening. A friend’s significant other asked about one of my jobs. When I mentioned that I was applying for a writing position with a big advertising firm he responded, “Oh, you mean a real job?” “And what might that be?” I asked, “A job in which I can climb the corporate ranks by kissing ass? Work 9-5 with no sense of duty to humanity?” I got a little hot and bothered. But I reminded myself that “real” was a matter of perspective. What mattered most was fulfilling what I feel is real while at the same time trying to remember that understanding what is “real” is like seeking “truth”: an endless search. Half of making something “real” is believing. Instead of defending myself when X prodded me with the “real job” comment, I should have saved my energy and reminded myself that what I believe in and feel cannot be explained. It’s when someone steps out of what the majority believes is real that new opportunities are created. Thank goodness Disney took a leap.
I’m reminded of Holly Golightly. “She’s a phony, but she’s a real phony,” OJ Bergman says of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “You know why? Because she honestly believes in all this phony junk she believes in.”