The South Bay’s June gloom has extended into July, which is just fine with me considering everything east of Hawthorne Boulevard is baking. I really prefer chill. Not too much, but short sleeves, cozy socks, red wine vs. white, 72 degree cloudy sky pie, is mighty fine with this Valentine.
I confess: I have a case of rhyme scheme Olympic’s Euphoria Story-a! Downright goofy. Hooky-Pooky hopeful. Silly blubbery me is fixated on table tennis first thing in the morning (in between Teletubbies and Barney). Backstory: I have the Official Early Morning Shift with my delightful 16-month granddaughter, Millie, from the moment she wakes up (5:30 a.m.-ish) until she hears Mommy Wonderwoman’s footsteps descend down the stairs sometime between 8 and 9. By then it feels like I’ve been up for hours, which I have, but significantly less groggy after my second cup of java-wava. Crazy, but it feels like Sunday when it’s Saturday. It’s the gloom, I say, the June gloom in July.
Back to table tennis and the Olympics. So last night during the opening ceremonies (6 on the Barker Scale) I hung in there and watched nearly all of the nations because I wanted to catch a glimpse of a former student who is playing for the Nigerian women’s basketball team. I felt absolutely giddy with hope. Maybe I’ll visit Nauru one day or Napal? Next year, Bolivia or Cambodia? Sure, maybe it was the Moscow Mule talking, but it was genuinely exciting watching the lava flow of young people who BELIEVE they will win. A parade of positivity, excellence and supreme work ethic. Me, sitting on the chair waiting to record the moment Antonye, my former student, walks past the camera and waves, thinking about all of the Olympics I’ve watched over the decades, with my mom, who loved all-things-Olympics and basketball, and now watching the Tokyo 2021 Olympics with my wee granddaughter. I get this overwhelming feeling that I am my mom and wee Millie is me, and I am connected to my adult children and future great grandchildren and my students, and the kids playing soccer up the street at the school I once attended, and taught at and now drive past in my early stages of retirement–the whole shebang, that’s what the Olympics are to me—especially this year. They represent resiliency and grit, which is something, I guess, me and my saggy jowls and pot belly can relate to.
I grew up during the crest of organized–validated–girls/women’s sports. In elementary and middle school, girls like me didn’t have the option to join a team. We could run around the track at school and play dodgeball and the like, but playing a sport outside of school–for fun, for competition–just didn’t happen.Those opportunities were for boys.
In high school, things started to change, thanks to the Girls Athletic Association and in 1972, Title IX. Thanks to the fighters, female athletes finally had a place at the table. We’ve come a long way, baby. Lots of grief, inequities and battles, but now watching women’s sports in the Olympics be celebrated at the same level as male competition is inspiring. And humbling. And lesson-reminding.
It took strength and guts to affect change. It took being stubborn and refusing to give up on what’s right, even though the naysayers were nasty and powerful.
That’s what I see when I watch the Olympics: All the people and the stories of falling down and getting up, of re-inventing, of shifting, of taking responsibility and following that inner calling.
It’s a constant battle, isn’t it? Doing that THING you were put on the planet to do. “Though the voices around you shouted, ‘Mend my life’,” but you figured out how to do the only thing you really could do, save your own life, to paraphrase Mr. Walt Whitman.
I keep trying. In between playing with grandchildren, perpetually cleaning , cooking, throwing a Winnie the Pooh shower for my impending baby grandson, I am also an Olympic dreamer negotiating my own version of rhythmic gymnastics.
Ever notice how the Olympic Rings are primary colors? No pastels. No purples. No grey.
What’s up with that? Not a fan favorite. I get it. In most ways, grey doesn’t suit me, not in clothing or hair color or senior citizen stereotypes. But those grey skies, to me, are a vessel of promise, a pixie dust reminder that eventually, tan-able, novel-reading summer days will return.
Right on cue, just like that, God cracks an egg into the milkshake sky and I can’t help but whisper, “Oh my!” dreaming of “The Places (I’ll) You’ll Go!” and that charming book I read to 18 years of graduating 8th graders, every year but this.