Spring of 1975. 9th grade gym class. The teacher had organized 4-person relays, all to compete against one another. My team consisted of my 3 closest friends: Tammy Lee, Karen Bryce and Debbie Sharkey.
I was more of a sprinter than distance runner, so this event suited me fine. I was pretty quick – 6.8 in the 50-yeard-dash – so they placed me last so, once the baton was handed off to me, I could take us to the finish.
We were running against 3 other teams. Tammy started us off, then at the quarter, sidled up to the already-in-transit Karen and firmly planted the baton in her outstretched hand. At the halfway mark, Karen did the same for Debbie. Such a quick process, yet that quarter where Debbie made her way toward me seemed to take forever. We were ahead, and that only added to the anticipation.
As Debbie approached me, I started running, but made the mistake of turning around to grab the baton. We fumbled, it dropped, and as I stooped down to retrieve it, Laurie Georgen zipped past.
I don’t remember if we came in 2nd, 3rd or last, but it was upsetting either way. I felt like a dork; a dork that had let my team down. I think I even heard Tammy say “Ah, shit!!” from way across the track.
Of course I was in tears, but my team rallied around me, and the teacher saw it as a good lesson in how not to hand off the baton. (gee, ‘so glad I could take the bullet.)
That was fortunately the only real “traumatic” experience I had to deal with that school year, however, the following summer my heart was broken as Debbie Sharkey – due to her father’s job – had to move toVancouver Island, BC.
I kept in touch with these young women, off and on, after high school. They all got married fairly young – Tammy at age 20, Karen at 21, and Debbie a few months later – ironically the same order as our relay team. How metaphorical that I – the one who dropped the baton – would marry later, at almost 28.
Oh, sure, I lived with guys on two separate occasions, but never married. It simply wasn’t in the cards back when I was in my early-mid 20’s. It took a lot of fumbling, bumbling, life experience and just finding myself, before I was ready to settle into the official title of Wife.
Those girls all knew what they wanted, and it just happened to be there, in their early 20’s. Two of them are still married to the same guys, which I think is pretty amazing, considering how young they were.
Life can indeed be a relay race, and not a smooth, flawless one, either. My clumsiness and uncertainty during my lifetime have not only made me stronger and wiser, but have also built a lot of character. I am a work in progress, making a point to enjoy the experiences along the way.
In life, there is no template; how boring it would be if there was.