“Hey, I don’t think I’m going to go to your swim meet Saturday, if that’s OK with you,” I say to her on Tuesday. “It’s like 90 minutes away and it will end up being my whole day, you know?”
“It’s fine,” she says, and I can tell by the way she says it that it really is.
Until Friday when they got their events for the meet. She got dealt a tough one — the 200 fly. That’s 8 lengths of the pool, which is long-ass time to do the butterfly stroke. Her other events were the fly in the Medley Relay, 100 fly and the 200 free relay. It would be a challenging and intimidating lineup against a strong team with nearly twice the number of female swimmers.
“Oh, shit,” I say. “You want me to go?”
“Yah,” and I can tell by the way she says it that she needs me there.
So I text my friends and tell them I can’t run at 8, I need to go earlier so I can get on the road. They are moms, too, and they get it. Then, I text her sister to see if she’ll go with me. “We can leave early and stop at the outlet mall on the way there,” I shamelessly bribe.
We leave the outlets in time to get to the college fifteen or twenty minutes early, but I fail to account for the fact that I’m going to have to locate the natatorium on a college campus.
“Mom, where are you guys? Are you coming?” she texts.
We drive around, in, and through campus looking for cars and buses. We finally find a sign for the athletic complex and the natatorium. Parking is scarce, so we just head for an overflow lot that is a bit of a walk away.
“How close are you? How much longer?” she texts again.
“Walking in!” I text back.
We follow the people to the pool stands, pick our way to a middle row and scan the visitor side for the girl in the aqua Crocs.
She sees us first and waves enthusiastically, happy to see me, her sister and her sister’s friend who tagged along. She’s on the other side of a six-lane pool from me, but I can tell how nervous she is. It’s in her posture, her expression, her aura.
These situations make her nervous — unfamiliar places, intimidating opponents, difficult events she’s never done before.
She’s getting in her own head, worrying about that 200 fly. It’s so obvious that I can see it from 400 yards away. Honestly, anyone could see it.
All three of us start texting her encouraging messages. “It’s just another swim.” “Swim your pace and don’t get DQd and you win.” “Whatever you do, it will be a PR!” “You got this! The fly is YOUR event.” “Just keep swimming.”
She looks up at us as she gets on the blocks, lets out a big breath, takes her mark. Her teammates line the other end of her lane to shout encouragement at every turn.
It was as hard and ugly as we expected. She slowed on each lap, but in the end, she was less than a half a length behind the competition. We’ll take that.
When she climbs out, she’s clearly exhausted. And relieved.
The meet was livestreamed. I could’ve watched it from home, saved myself an entire Saturday sweating it out on bleachers for four and a half hours and driving for nearly three, but when they need you, you know it and you show up. That’s what mothers (and sisters) do.
About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly with little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.