Friday, May 30, 2008

First Grade Photo Finish

Every school we have attended, in every state, has hosted some version of field day. An excuse to ditch the classroom on a sunny spring day and maybe earn a blue ribbon or two. Every school handles it a little bit differently. We flew by the seat of our pants last year, our first year in this new school district, in this new state. This year it all made a little more sense.

Even though I worked last night and got home at 7:30 a.m., I set the alarm and was awake by noon, to be at Baby Boy's school on time. Today was the big day.

And it held much more meaning than it did last year, for several reasons.

Last year Baby Boy ran a casual race in September, with his little kindergarten class. He came in first, by a long shot. (taking into account that half the runners stopped mid way through the race to check out a cool butterfly that flitted across the track...)

So he cruised through the school year thinking he was the fastest kindergardener in school. And he jogged into field day very confident he would be clutching a blue ribbon on the bus ride home.

What he hadn't taken into account was that there were three other kindergarten classes. Once up against all the other kids in his grade, he discovered he was not the fastest after all. He was fifth fastest. Not a blue ribbon. In fact, no ribbon at all. And it haunted him.

So this year he had a new strategy. His oldest brother runs track on the high school team and is very serious about his sport. Baby Boy watched him carefully. He soaked up terms like PR (personal record) and walked around at all times knowing his current PR for the field day race. They had practice sessions throughout the year in P.E. class and Baby Boy dug deep to improve that PR so he could come home and give big brother the updates.

We counted down weeks, then days, until the big day. Today. Sleep was not a priority for this groggy mom...being there for field day was imperative.

The weather was perfect, the field was level and dry. And the first grade boys took their places on the starting line.

At the word "GO!" my little guy bolted. He strategically cut to the inside position, just like big brother did at track meets. He pushed with all he had. For three quarters of the race he was miles ahead of the pack. The flash in a light blue shirt.

Then some little wiry kid started to kick it up a notch. Around the last corner this kid found new energy and the gap between first and second grew smaller. I could hardly breathe as the two ran, neck and neck, to the finish line, snapping my digital camera right as they crossed the line. Photo finish. Tie for first.

But it was first. First place. And he shaved six seconds off his PR to boot. My boy was wiped out but thrilled.

It didn't hurt that later he was the only boy signed up for the vertical jump, so snagged the blue ribbon in that event too. (although a vertical jump of over 12 inches for a seven year old ain't bad, thinks his unbiased mother...)

Two blue ribbons in one day. My boy is still floating, three hours later.

And the whole thing mystifies me. I lost the ability to run about the time I started having memories. My left foot started to grow crooked and running became an embarrassing mix of hop and hobble. I hated the presidential physical fitness test. So much of it involved feet. And I suffered through it, trying not to draw attention to my inabilities.

It makes me stand even more in awe as I watch my boy accept his ribbons in the awards ceremony. His life is all about running and jumping and all the things I dreaded when I was the elementary school student.

My mommy heart swells with pride that Baby Boy was so dedicated to reach his goal. And it makes me want to weep with joy that he is strong and healthy enough to do it.

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