Sonny just won his first sporting medal at his school’s Annual Sports Day: a third position bronze in running. The fact that this means nothing to him does not take away from the other fact that we, his parents, could not stop bragging! The medal was fun for him for a day and then he forgot all about it. Rather, I made him forget by hiding it as I was pretty sure it would end up becoming a wheel for one of his broken toy cars or get run over and completely ruined when he pretends his tricycle is a monster truck rampaging through tiny sedans!
Anyway, as I kept looking back at the videos and photos of the event, a very tiny, quite irrational but extremely competitive part of my brain kept bombarding me with this mean spirited thought that he should have won the gold. The winner of the event was a boy who was at least a foot taller than the rest of the runners and looked somewhat older. He sure seemed like he belonged in another category, didn’t he? And what was up with my son playing “train-train” with the first runner-up and lining up behind him when he could have quite easily run past him? Shouldn’t he know that it’s a competition and the aim is to come up ahead of everyone else?
My mind wandered as I tried to kill that ugly voice and my train of thoughts whooshed back to my childhood to many of the sporting events that I had participated in during my school days. I tried to extrapolate sonny’s thought process from what I remembered of my past.
I’d voluntarily entered my name for the race as it had seemed like fun! And no, I did not win. Actually, quite far from it! I finished last or second-last, I think. I don’t remember the ranking part, it’s what my parents remember and convey to me during a typical bout of nostalgia.
What I do remember is the feel of the wind on my face during the hops and the smell of the soil when my hands and feet hit the ground, wind-soil…wind-soil… the pattern continued till the finish line. That was so much fun! I also remember that after completing about two-thirds of the race, I got tired and did not have the energy to complete the race. But I needed to, for no other reason but the simple exhilaration of crossing the finish line.
And I did complete and it felt great! And I remember the taste of glucose (the regular variety, in our times there were no flavored ones) which one of the teachers gave me after I crossed the finish line as it was customary to do so to ensure that no one fainted on Sport’s Day! 🙂
And so the pattern continued till Grade IV. I participated in different sporting events and I lost. During Spoon & Marble Race, I remember the unpleasant feel of the spoon in my mouth and the moment, milliseconds before the marble fell off the spoon.
During Sack Race and Three-legged Race, I remember feeling stupid that I even cared to participate (peer pressure, you see)…it was not my thing! I was (and still am) very clumsy and uncoordinated and the reverberating thud when I (& my teammate) fell moments after starting reaffirmed my faith.
During Biscuit Race, I remember feeling small…I was scrawny and short (am still short but scrawny has unfortunately turned to stout now, but I am digressing here 😉 ). So I was saying, I remember feeling small when despite my best jumps I fell short (literally) in biting a biscuit from the line when the taller gals seemed to do it so effortlessly!
Balloon fights, Cockfights, Long Jumps all led to failure after failure. But despite all the disappointments, what I remember most is that I giggled and laughed a lot. I made fun of the other losers and the other losers made fun of me, but it was all good-natured and we enjoyed all the events like true sportsmen!
During the High Jump Event, the teachers decided to mix things up a bit (and maybe save some time in the process). They started from highest jump settings to the lowest instead of the other way round. The first setting was tough, no one (not even the tallest girls!) could do it and we all ducked under the rope instead of scaling it. Some of the brave girls who were not frozen with fear attempted the jump and got tangled up in the rope, which made them eat dust with a resounding thud!
The next round (with a slightly lower setting) was still difficult, but I decided to try it anyway. And surprise! Surprise! I jumped across the rope without touching it and landed on my own two feet! It was perfect except for the fact that I did not anticipate the next course of events.
None of the other girls could make it across this time as well, which essentially meant that my jump was the highest and I won first place!
However, it was still too confusing for a fifth grader to comprehend, especially for someone who had never won a sporting event before. And so, during the third iteration, to determine second and third place holders, when the teacher stopped me from attempting the jump, I was utterly confused! She had to spell it out to me that I had won first place already and no longer needed to continue jumping at lower settings.
I remember being thrilled beyond words at first and then quite bored! You see it is very lonely at the top. While I was sitting on the sidelines twiddling my thumbs, all my friends were busy having fun trying to jump. I also remember that it was a long wait before the event got over and by that time, the thrill of winning was all but gone. Of course, all the excitement did a booming comeback during the prize distribution ceremony and the pride I felt that time was immense! I was hooked to winning!
(Quite Unrelated Pop Quiz: I have named four Pixar Movies in a single sentence in this paragraph, do you know which movies? Keep reading. The answer is at the end of this blog.)
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