I’m currently hiding from a group of sweaty teenaged children by sitting in the coach’s office inside the high school gym. The same gym my husband spent most of his academic years in and the very same gym my children will grow up in.
I don’t share this scent of sweaty history with my children as I was born and raised in a city, far away from this place, the gyms I played and learned in too numerous to count from bouncing from one school to the next over the years.
But somehow, almost twenty years later, I find myself sitting in the very same place my husband’s parents must have sat, watching my children, their grandchildren, play where once their children did.
I spend a lot of time inside this gym, and four other small town gyms spread around my geographical location. All farm towns, all small schools, and all threads in the blanket of history my children are weaving with their father.
I was an athletic child myself, back in the day, when my thighs didn’t jiggle and I could easily bend over to touch my toes. Years of smoking, inactivity and back injury have reduced me to a blob of middle aged unfitness but still, there was a time when I could bend the universe to my whim with the muscles in my body.
I joined every team I could, it didn’t matter what sport. Some of them I excelled in, some of them I made a really good bench warmer, but it didn’t matter to me as long as I was involved.
And in nine years of active school sports participation, I can count how often my parents saw me compete or play.
I was competing in the city championships for indoor track and field.
I did well that day and came home with a medal but it wouldn’t have mattered even I was the last person to drag my limp and useless body across the finish line.
The moment I saw my dad in the stands, watching me, I felt like I won the lottery.
I never experienced that feeling again but I never forgot it either.
I swear that day, I ran a little faster, tried a little harder and shone a little brighter just because I knew someone I loved was out there, wishing the wind behind my back.
And then I had children. And it wasn’t long before I was sitting on a folding lawn chair on a grassy field as I watched my toddlers’ race around a soccer field, mostly pulling their shirts over their heads or picking their noses. That’s what four-year-old soccer players do.
Soccer became volleyball, which became basketball, which morphed into track and field and then the cycle would start all over again.
My kids, like their father and me, have a love of competition and a desire to play. We never had to push our kids to move because they simply never knew how to stop moving.
Thankfully, circumstances and luck have all conspired to allow me to be present at most of my children’s sports games and competitions. There haven’t been many of which I’ve missed. And I’m thankful for that.
My kids know that if they look up, they will see me. And more often or not, if they listen carefully, they’ll hear me calling their names as they play. Heck, I’m that mom who learns all the kids’ names on her child’s team so that I can cheer them on too. I’m an equal opportunity yeller, much to the dismay of the person who has the bad luck of sitting beside me.
I know it wouldn’t matter if I were here inside this gym or not. My kids would still play, still compete whether I was here to bear witness to their efforts or not, just like I did.
But I can’t help but remember that one time when I looked up and saw my dad waving back at me and how for one shiny second, everything was perfect.
I want to give that feeling to my kids.
It’s just icing on the cake that I get to do it the same place my husband’s parents did, as my children live their youth out in the places their father lived his past.