The first piece of writing for which I was paid was a column in Runner’s World that ran under Women’s Running, but it had nothing to do with being a woman. It had to do with being a fat, slow runner who’d come in last at one of the local 5ks, with the sweeper car lumbering along behind me. I knew the deputy sheriff driving that car from my work at the court house, and as I huffed and puffed through the hills of Smithsburg, MD, he was on his bull horn.
“Grace, you doing OK? Your face is really red.”
“Grace, I have some water here in the cruiser if you need it.”
“Grace, my kid turns seven on Tuesday and I’d like to be home by then.” Or words to that effect.
But when I did cross the finish line, I got a big round of applause from all the volunteers and other runners, who also doubtless wanted to be home by Tuesday. But they stayed for me, and they cheered for me, just as they’d cheered for all the division winners and the grand champion gazelle who clocked off 4:30 minute miles like they were nothing.
This past year feels like that 5k. The hills got much higher than I anticipated, the temperature burned hotter, the pace was out of my league, and some joker in the sweeper car found it hilarious to publicly ridicule my best efforts. I hope I never have to do this again.
And yet, here we are. We made it through December, and through 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. We have crossed another finish line. In addition to making rude gestures at whoever is driving the figurative patrol car, I also want to express my heartfelt gratitude.
To you, my bloggin’ buddies, who provide thoughtful, genuine responses to my maunderings week after week. To my readers generally, who continue to amaze me with their kindness, generosity, and good humor. To all the writin’ buddies out there who have commiserated, put up with virtual-this and Zoom-that, and are still penning the stories that have sustained and entertained me.
To my family. The sisters who’ve learned how to Zoom, the brothers with their ridiculous text threads. To my wonderful nieces and nephews, whether they are sending me fudge or adding me to their approved contact list at a federal prison. To my most magnificent daughter.
To the neighbors who wave as they drive by, to the vet’s office that is still open, and the ridin’ buddies at the horse barn who roll with the CDC guidance of the day, week, and moment.
I am so deeply grateful for all the good will, good humor, and resilience around me. If I did not believe in love before, this year has proven that love can get us through practically anything. So thanks for walking some the walk with me, and here’s hoping next year is more about the good times and less about yet still another round of rubbishing resilience.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Are there any finish line volunteers you’d like to thank? Any buffoons in the figurative patrol car who’ve earned a rude gesture from you?
To three commenters, I’ll send an e-ARC of A Tryst by the Sea!