by Tanya Ward Goodman
I ran in the Jog-a-Thon at my son’s school this morning for a bunch of reasons. I ran because this is the first year in a while that I’ve had two kids at two different schools and the boy’s school is getting the short end of the volunteer stick. I ran because the boy didn’t get any pledges on his fundraising card and I didn’t make any effort to help. I ran because he asked me to run and because I thought it would be what our elementary school principal calls a “memory maker.” I ran because I thought if I made the effort to be with him in this shared activity it might take the edge off the pre-teen anger and sullenness that runs through our house like a lava-mudslide-blizzard-tornado all hot and cold and fast and slow and deadly no matter what.
As you might imagine, in the company of his friends the boy was not as thrilled about our shared Jog-A-Thon experience as he was in the privacy of our kitchen. When I (because I am sometimes dim about these things) jogged right up to him, he shooed me away with a tiny hand movement. With no words, he was able to convey to me that I should either be very far ahead of him or very far behind. I was a little hurt. In fact I might have decided at that moment that I would run more laps than he did. I would crush him. And then I came to my senses.
Why in the world would he want to run with me? I was happy to see him run with his buddies. It was great to see them joking and laughing and doing funny walks. They bounced shoulder into shoulder and poured water on each other. They had a good time.
And so did I. I realized that I was running with a bunch of middle school kids in a way I did not run in middle school. When I was eleven, our gym class was made to run a weekly mile on a dirt road that ran directly underneath a cement plant. It was dusty and hot and I never was able to jog more than a few steps without resting. I was a reader, not a runner. I was an ice cream eater and a daydreamer. The runners were tall, slim girls with long, long legs. I would never be a runner.
But here I was thirty-five years later, running. As I completed each lap, I was given a red twist-tie. Every time I gathered another one, I felt happier. I wasn’t winded. You never know what is going to happen. You never know what you’re going to be capable of doing until you do it. It may seem small, but today, on an asphalt school yard, in the company of the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, I realized that while I will always be a reader, I’m a runner, too. And I was okay to do it alone and to let my boy do his running alone or in the company of friends as he saw fit.
My boy ran a lap or two at my side, dropping in and then peeling off, and it was as nice to have his company as it was to see him speed out in front of me. At the end of the Jog-a-Thon, we compared our lap totals. He finished two ahead of me and I could see that gave him pleasure. A memory was made for both of us.
Tanya Ward Goodman is the author of “Leaving Tinkertown,” published by the University of New Mexico Press.