Monday, May 08, 2006

Flying for first

My poor mom tried so hard to make me presentable as a kid, but I resisted at every step. I hated having my hair brushed, I hated having my teeth brushed, I hated cleaning up my toys. I absolutely would not cooperate. I can just see my poor mom struggling to make me look all shiny and adorable like other people’s kids when she’d drag me along to my brother’s little league games. I wanted to wear my rattiest t-shirt, my brother’s old shorts, leave my hair in a rat’s nest and leave the dirt streaks on my cheeks. I was happy that way.

Every year my mom would try to sell me on one or two new “special” outfits. Some years it was a nice Easter dress: “Look at the pretty flowers on the dress Christine! You love the flowers out in the garden, it’s just like wearing the garden!” “Christine! Look, it’s just like your sister’s dress! You two look so cute together!” Some years it was a dress for Christmas, "Oh Christine, this is so adorable!" Bleck! I did NOT want to be cute. Matching was the worst form of torture, no offense to my little sister. Matching was for cutesy kids who put away their toys before bedtime, not me.

The one outfit my mom really got me to buy into was my sky blue suit. Straight-leg trousers and a matching super soft cotton t-shirt and even two matching ribbons for pigtails in absolutely perfect robin’s egg blue. I loved finding robin’s eggs because they looked like such a magical gift that a wild bird could make eggs like a chicken but in brightest blue. So perfect.

I loved the sky blue suit. I loved the soft cotton of the shirt and the grown-up sophistication of trousers. The ultimate little-girl tom-boy dress-up outfit, a sky blue suit.

The sky blue suit was saved for special occasions though, which made it even more magic, like robin’s eggs only came once a year. I convinced my mom to let me wear the sky blue suit to my last day of kindergarten.

“OK Christine, be very careful. Keep your outfit clean.”

“OK Mom.”

I felt like the coolest girl in kindergarten in my sky blue suit and matching pigtail ribbons. I felt so grown-up and put together. But Miss Geffenbach planned a day of physical activity for our last day as half-day students, a major transition in a five-year-old’s life. Normally, I was the first to challenge the fastest boy in class to a race or the strongest boy to pushups, but I thought a sky blue suit day would be coloring books and number songs.

I was reticent. I was scared for the suit. “No chocolate ice cream drips on the shirt. No grass stains on the pants. Don’t lose a ribbon.” I gave myself lots of rules to preserve my suit like a precious egg. But I couldn’t resist the lure of the foot race. I had to use the last day of kindergarten to beat David Allen once and for all, to prove I was the fastest five-year-old in school.

The race was charted half-way around the school, ending just past the front entrance to the church after going past a sharp turn at the rectory. Miss Geffenbach even had two kids who never won races hold up a length of ribbon to be our finish line so we could blast through like we really had won the Olympics.

We lined up for the race. I forgot about the sky blue suit, my precious robin’s egg charge, and I focused on beating David Allen. We launched out of the start, the fast kids pulling out front from the start, and the slow kids falling behind immediately. I pumped my little legs so hard, but there was David and even Matt Callahan and holy moly Erin Pendle still up ahead. I got past Adriana Tower and I was closing in so fast, pushing harder than I even thought I could, passing everyone but Matt and David, but there they were, and the turn coming into the rectory---

I slid out of control. I hit gravel on the turn going for a risky outside maneuver to come around and cut off the fast boys. I slid out of control, and I landed on the knee of my sky blue suit.

Did I lay there crying? Did I leap up and try to hop across the finish line? Did even the slow kids pass me up? I don’t remember. I remember Miss Geffenbach picked me up and held me in her arms as I cried. I didn’t win. There was gravel in a big hole in my knee, and I ruined the sky blue suit.

My mom, my perfect mom, as precious as the robin’s egg that only comes once a year, didn’t mind that I ruined the suit--she was sad I hurt my knee. Mom hemmed my pants legs to make them shorts, and the outfit converted to summer casual wear. But it was never the same sky blue suit.

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