More Than Just A Day At The Olympics

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, March 17, 2010

You think about these things. You wonder what it’ll be like to move around in an international environment and see sights you’ve only watched on TV, or seen online.

Well, it was brilliant. It was everything I thought it would be, only with more walking. Which was OK, because, well, it was the Olympics, for crying out loud.

Vancouver was a class act, a shining star. We never wondered which way to go because at every turn there was someone to help with directions. The city was sparkling, people were cheery, and despite the press of humanity (the likes of which I’d never seen), parents weren’t yelling at children, babies weren’t crying, and vulgarities didn’t spew.

I was with my oldest son, a self-proclaimed Olympic addict. He follows the games and their athletes like others follow TV’s “Lost” or “Dancing With The Stars.” I’m not as rabid as he is, but it’s a shared passion. Being there with another Olympic fan, someone who really appreciated the experience, was a thing of beauty.

We followed the festivities up and down Robson Street. We engaged in pin-trading which will probably soon be considered its own Olympic event. We schmoozed with people, and they schmoozed back. We went to see Women’s Hockey—Team Canada vs. Team Finland. The highlight? The spectacular Finnish goalkeeper. Canada took 50 shots. She allowed only five.

The day was sunny, even balmy. The night was clear and provided some good photo-ops of the Olympic Cauldron and the five, illuminated Olympic rings that floated on a barge in Burrard Inlet.

My son is framing my event ticket—something I’d planned on doing myself until he said he wanted to. It’s really the only memento I care about.

But my favorite part of the experience wasn’t Olympic related. It was spending the day alone with my boy.

Some months ago I told him that even though I adore his wife and two children, I wondered if, well, maybe, he could take a day and come visit me by himself. His life in Seattle is a busy one, and I know about young families and parents running as fast as they can to make lives for themselves.

I said whenever he could do it would be fine, and maybe we could go to lunch or something. Just him and me.

He said he’d figure something out and let me know.

Last summer his family came for a visit, and he mentioned how he’d arranged a day when he and I could just hang out together, but it wouldn’t be until February. OK, I said. Just let me know when. I knew he was busy and I could wait.

Then he told me. The day would be February 22, 2010. He and I would be going to Vancouver to the games. He’d already bought the tickets.

During our trip last month, I watched him all day. I saw how he lives his life full on, gulping every moment like it’s his last breath. We talked and laughed, remembered times past, and mused about the future. We reveled in our adventure, even looking at each other occasionally and saying, “We’re at the OLYMPICS!”

I noticed the tiny, gray flecks in his abundant brown hair, and it reminded me of the first time I saw that hair and those eyes, 34 years ago. Some things mothers keep to themselves, and with good reason. Stories of “way back when” can wear a little thin with adult children.

But for me, it was all about him, with a side helping of the Olympic Games. It was a culmination of years spent in front of the TV watching events, of conversations about the glory of sport and Olympic history, and listening to the music of John Williams.

Our day in Vancouver was shimmery. The smile is still on my face. I’d hoped for maybe a few hours to chat with my boy. He gladly gave me that, plus a once in a lifetime experience.

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Driving Through Time

Tonight I took myself out to dinner. It was mostly to escape four teenage boys that took over my house. But hey, I had to eat, right?

I’m searching lately. Trying to find out what my life before today means, and what it will mean from now on. So, after dinner I drove and then drove some more.

I found myself in front of one of the first homes I lived in with my new husband–way back in 1975. It’s been redone, updated. But I parked for a minute and noticed how small it looked. But then we didn’t need anything more. I remembered my time there as, well, “shiny.” I was young, our marriage was new. All things were possible, sparkly, and tinged with raw emotion.

I liked the girl that lived there all those years ago. She was hopeful, fun, and wore her heart on the outside. For just a minute or two, I wanted her back. But she wasn’t very brave. And I need brave right now.

Then I went to another house. It was a split-level we lived in from 1977 to 1988.  Also updated. I paused there, too.

I brought three new babies to that house. The young mother that lived there during those years was frantically raising children, keeping a marriage together, and making sure everyone else was happy. There were great .. joyous moments. But there was a lot of grief, too.

I came home to my house now.. full of boys exploding with hormones. I was glad to be here, even though the cat missed the litter box and that meant cleaning up after her, and even though I didn’t completely figure things out on my drive through the past.  I’m hoping little pieces of the puzzle will come together eventually.

Mostly, I think, I can’t live in the yesterdays.. although they beckon. I could so easily stay stuck. It’s almost scary thinking about how easy that would be.

I liked, even loved those times.. but they have to inform my present and future, both of which are patiently tapping their toes in the wings.. waiting for my full attention.

The search continues.. but I’m closing in.