PERSONAL GROWTH AT THE MIDDLE SCHOOL TRACK MEET

  1. Stage One: Arrive early and park in wrong parking lot. Walk a country mile to the correct gate.
  2. Stage Two: Realize there is a $5.00 admission charge.
  3. Stage Three: Discover that in your wallet there are only two dollars. Accidentally curse in public. At a school.
  4. Stage Four: Offer to send the remaining balance in the mail. Receive withering look from gate attendant. Say you'd be willing to complete a few odd jobs to pay off the debt. You are not serious, but the attendant thinks you are. Once you realize this, it is too late.
  5. Stage Five: Receive work order from gate attendant, which is, with the $20 she has given you, walk to the shaved ice stand and buy her a bottled water. When you return with the bottled water, your debt will be cancelled.
  6. JUST A QUICK PAUSE TO SAY HOW WEIRD THIS IS BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW THIS PERSON AT ALL.
  7. Stage Six: Walk to the stand and purchase the water. While you are there, consider buying yourself a shaved ice with her change, because with the new optional VITAMIN BOOST, that icy confection becomes a nutritious meal. And you could use one. Decide against it. Return to gate with water and $18.00
  8. Stage Seven: Find a seat in the stands. Depending on the weather, pull your sweater up around your ears, or your hat down over your eyes. Feel lonely.
  9. Stage Eight: Watch runners line up for the 3200 meter run. The first race. Notice your son is not among them. Realize he has decided to run the 1600. Which is the last race, hours away. Die inside.
  10. Stage Nine: Basically a fast-forward through Elizabeth Kubler Ross's grief stages. Fight urge to stand up and yell "I RAISED YOU BETTER THAN THIS!" at your kid, who looks so tiny, wandering the infield. And what would you even mean? That he should know better than to choose the last race? Or he should rush through a challenge, just to get it done?
    Spend a few minutes feeling legitimately crazy.
  11. Stage Ten: Close your eyes and try to imagine a place you'd rather be, any place you could go on earth, where the love of your child wouldn't find you, stop you in the middle of whatever bliss you'd created for your own pleasure, and rip you open. Imagine a place where that love wouldn't find you and ask you to stay, and watch, and wait.
  12. Decide that place doesn't exist. The same love that would find you anywhere, that love with all its inconvenience and fear and tedium and messiness and long effing lonely days with a track-meet-cherry-on-top, can find you here. It *did* find you here. You're still here, aren't you?
  13. Go to the shaved ice stand. Ask if you can get a cup of just ice. Surely they won't charge for that.