Sunday, May 31, 2009

First Place

When my oldest son was five or six, he used to take Acrosports near Kezar Stadium. His favorite thing to do after the class was go across the street and run a lap around the track. I think he liked this part even more than the gymnastics class. It was important that I watched him the whole time he ran, and he liked it when I cheered for him when he made it to the finish line. I remember watching his short legs pumping as he receded from me, getting smaller and smaller. It was strange and unsettling to see the little speck that was him moving way across the track when he was farthest from me, because in fact that was about the farthest he had ever been from me, by himself. But I knew he would stick to the track and round the curve to return to me, coming in first place every time. He never told me what was going through his head as he ran, but I imagined that it was a vision of crowds cheering "Go, go!"
Fast forward to ten years later. My son is competing in the All-City high school track meet at Kezar Stadium. He has the fastest frosh-soph times going into two races. He wins them both, easily. At least, he makes it look easy. But I know those grueling training runs of five and ten miles, sprints up Kirkham steps, and interval training all spring weren't easy, because when he came home from them he would grunt, drop his backpack and fall on the couch, only to wake up when dinner was ready. I missed the last race of the meet, the 4x400 relay. He was the anchor for the frosh-soph team, and I heard how they were in 2nd place after the third leg, but he pulled ahead and while the whole track team chanted his name, ran to first place. Not many of our dreams get realized so concretely, in the very spot where we first dreamed them.
He did come back to me after winning the race, and let me take his picture with his medal. He was happy about winning but didn't make his ultimate goal, to beat the meet record. He has already decided what his goal is for next year, when he runs varsity: make it to the state finals. That's what you do after you realize a dream: dream up the next dream. And go off to hang out with your friends.

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