I think I’m pretty kick-ass for the most part: I can ovary-up and do things I’m afraid of. However, I’m not sure people know how often I’m afraid. And today facing my shift as a timer for my daughter’s swim meet rattles me from the get-go. For one, I’ve always loathed the uber-competitive parent or coach – you know the asshole I mean, screaming and intense and all sports-lingo’y and often unable to discuss anything else except the heat, or the meet or their (seven year old’s) form or whatever. But honestly? I can kind of handle these people. More to the point – because in general I’ve found these swim events to be merely highly active, a bit chaotic, and a positive experience overall with friendly people – I just don’t want to screw up and I’m rarely in a high-pressure situation these days that I don’t know my way around. Organized sports? Not so much.
This afternoon as a timer I’m part of both a secondary and tertiary backup system – that is, there is an official time activated by electronic sensors and equipment, and a physical button (me) also tied into this system should the sensor fail (ours later did); finally, myself and another timer are also responsible for hand-timing with stopwatches. I know, it sounds simple. And it kind of is, except at two minutes to the meet start I haven’t taken position and I am just hanging back and acting mellow (like Ben Murphy!) but inside thinking any minute there’d be this bullhorn and a crying kid and red-faced adults and everyone’s disapproving eye would swing around to my dumb ass and I’d be the only parent there who didn’t “get it” and was being this huge dick. Maybe even a record-scratch or slow-motion heads shaking in disgust.
But of course, none of this happened: when I finally make way to my lane – assuming, correctly, my timing accoutrement would be there – I find my lane is seeded with the slower swimmers and empty during low-attendance heats. My timing partner is a rather experienced one; he knows how to do the job well enough and he’s knowledgeable about swim meets in general so I get a bit of an education there (it’s been many, many years since I was in a swim meet myself). We spend our shift in companionable discussion when we our lane is empty, an official-looking intensity when a child thrashes through their race. I get the pleasure of timing my own daughter in one of her events: today she competes in two relays, 50 breaststroke, 25 backstroke, and the 100 individual medley (I know! She’s fucking awesome!). Not to mention that instead of waiting 15 freezing minutes for a bus we’d walked to the YMCA in the first place – a brisk stroll. At the end of her meet my mother takes us out to lunch and my girl, who usually doesn’t eat much, demolishes macaroni and cheese, applesauce, lemonade, and half of a fudge volcano dessert. I’m thinking she’ll sleep well tonight.
As a side note, we’d missed our original 11:50 bus staying too long in Hoquiam’s new recycled clothing shop. I found a lovely line of soft cotton cami tops ($5) and happily selected three. Sadly, the women’s clothing tops out at about a size 10 so the shop holds little for me (and um, lots of other women I know – at a size 14 I am America’s average). Besides the shirts I purchased a glittery mask for Sophie at her earnest request. Just as I laid my purchases on the counter Sophie brought me a pair of large, gold and red earrings – very striking, very bold.
“You should get these, Mama,” she says, “They’re beautiful.”
“Oh, I like them…” I say (true, very much). “But don’t you think I wear too much red?”
“You have red hair and your coat is red – you look good in red. It will be a nice touch,” she says – simple lilting sophistication in her seven year old duck voice! A few ladies in the shop turn around at this, laugh, smile. I laugh too but feel the sting of tears. I honestly feel I’ve already raised my kids; they’re so uniquely themselves and I’m always thinking, Where did that come from?
I got many compliments on the earrings today; Sophie was right. And I could tell she was proud of selecting the earrings for me. It was a pretty wonderful little thing between us.