When I was fourteen-years-old I joined my High School’s Track Team. Impressing my classmates with my agile Kenyan-like abilities, I won the team’s MVP award and garnished the nickname “Jackrabbit Jackie” for my hare-footed speed. Okay, well maybe that’s not altogether accurate. What actually happened might have fewer accolades.
During the spring semester of my freshman year, the extra curricular activity “Drill Team” was no longer considered a viable class in meeting my High School’s Physical Education requirements. In order for my fellow flag twirlers and me to meet our needed PE requirements, we either had to enroll in a traditional PE class, or we had to “go out” for Track and Field. After a conversation with Coach Monroe, a grandfatherly man whose gentle nature sits firm and soft on the bleachers of my memory, I decided to join the Track Team.
Coach Monroe needed runners to participate in a multitude of events, and he confidently suggested two in which he felt I would excel. The first was the 800 meter run. 800 meters is two laps around the track. TWO LAPS…without stopping. I’m sorry, but that’s a long way to run without an axe murderer chasing you.
The second event in which he convinced the team’s novice runner to participate was the Hurdles. Wikipedia describes hurdling this way,
The act of running and jumping over an obstacle at speed. A series of barriers known as hurdles are set at precisely measured heights and distance in which each athlete must pass by running over. Accidental knocking over of hurdles is not cause for disqualification, but is disadvantageous.
On one afternoon, Coach Monroe, who undoubtedly received his Masters Degree in Manipulation, managed to convince this newcomer that she should run in one event demanding endurance and a second event requiring agility in speedily skipping over obstacles which are strategically placed to knock her on her bum.
Two things stand out about my time on LMHS Matador’s Track and Field Team. The first is that I successfully DID compete in both of those events at two separate meets. Twice, Coach Monroe was able to convince me that I could successfully navigate the obstacles strategically placed to trip me up. Even though I never placed in hurdles and the 800 meter run only garnished me a 4th place ribbon (out of four runners), I still did it.
The second thing that stands out is a treasured nostalgic heirloom I can still visualize to this day. The monument exists in the form of a pair of blue satin track shoes. I can still see the homely sneakers, and while I don’t know if they were really satin, they shine that bright in my memory.
As a teenager, the shoes were not my favorite–remember, I only wore them twice. The metal cleats sparkle in my memory not because of the way they gripped the ground seeing me safely over each hurdle, but because of the indelible message my father sent me upon their purchase.
A father who worked long days in construction, arrived home where his daughter, who was not blessed with athletic prowess, told him she was joining the track team. He looked down at her VANS deck shoes and said, “Get in the truck, you’re gonna need shoes.”
We climbed into my Dad’s sky blue pick-up truck and he drove us to the nearby Big 5 Sporting Goods Store. I can still see my father’s checkbook as his calloused hand signed the note paying nearly fifty dollars for the funky footwear. Fifty dollars may not seem like a lot of money, but over thirty years ago in our middle income family with two working parents; it was an oddity for my Dad to spend that kind of cash on shoes.
This is where the heirloom explodes in my heart.
My Dad didn’t buy me track cleats because I whined and moaned about needing them, and he didn’t buy them because he had any false expectations about my running abilities. The man had raised me. He was fully aware that I was a girl who was drawn to reading, performing, and creating far more often than exerting myself athletically. Unlike Coach Monroe, my father probably had a pretty good idea that I would eventually find my place on the track team, not running in an event, but running the announcer’s booth with a microphone in hand and my voice echoing through the stadium.
I’ve wondered at times if I would even remember my brief inclusion to the track team were it not for the physical manifestation of my father’s confidence. For all I know or imagine, the 4th place ribbon and the spiky slippers sit somewhere in a landfill, and it’s the memory of my father’s belief that has become the treasured heirloom.
This week I was reminded of that parental belief when my Indiegogo fundraising campaign to pay for the editing and publishing of my first fictional manuscript received a hearty donation. Upon notification, I learned the donation was made by my parents.
Writing has brought so many good things into my life, and this is among them. Years from now, will the a published book shine brighter than the heirloom’s of encouragement I’ve already received?
When you drive someone to Big 5 and buy them a pair of cleats, the runner’s belief in their ability to run well is re-energized. When faithful friends or far off strangers are willing to invest in your dreams because they see your potential, what happens at the finish line becomes more likely, but less consequential. It’s a race worth running no matter the outcome. Even last place becomes a victory for all. Time and again, the spark of creativity has been rekindled for those who strive to create by the mere knowledge that someone believes in their ability to navigate the hurdles and endure to the end.
For more information about the fictional book I wrote and how to be a part of Making Kimly’s Trade Happen, simply click on this LINK.