Dad’s Secret

Dad told me a secret once to try and help me win a race against one of my brothers.

Oddly enough it comes back to me on occasion.

And I realize it applies to more than a foot race.

In most of our outdoor games the older boys had an advantage.  One, they were boys  (don’t ask me why that’s an advantage it’s just what I was raised on).   Two, they were older (at least the older ones were).  Three, they beat us up if they didn’t win (that might not be true).

We played outside a lot.   There is rumor that mom would lock the doors to the house and make us stay outside.  I might have started that rumor.  But honestly, I think mom started that rumor.    And if I had all of the family pictures I promise you there is one of me and some of my brothers looking in the screened door.  And mom taking the picture from the inside.    Because she was safely locked in.   And us, safely locked out.  Playing outside consisted of games like kickball, first bounce or fly, hot box (I don’t know what you called it but this is what we called it), football, and racing.   Many other games.   But in most of the above games the boys did seem to have an advantage.   One I could not ever figure out.

When dad took us to the farm, or on outings where play was the intention, he had fun putting us to tasks.   He seemed to love to have  us run.  One day we were on an adventure exploring a national forest area.   We stopped for a picnic.

Likely the picnic was contained in one of the old 7-Up Coolers, or Pepsi Coolers, that traveled with the essential pop, beer and food.

One of dad’s rules was to leave a place nicer than how we found it.  We always cleaned up after ourselves.  And sometimes after others.

This one day dad had us run races.  He would post some of us at a tree, and some of us at another tree or the picnic table.   One person from each group would get race against a person from the other group.  Whoever got from the tree to the table, or the table to the tree first, won.

The runners ran facing one another until you passed each other.  After that you couldn’t see the other racer.

The boys seemed to win at an alarming percentage.  Being the oldest girl, this did not set well with me.  I seemed to be outnumbered by the boys (I was).  And no matter how fast, how hard I ran I couldn’t seem to beat them.

I don’t know what made this day different.   But I was getting mad.  I was trying so very hard.  And I couldn’t get to the other side before one of the brothers.   After one of my relays Dad must have seen me feeling rejected.   Or maybe he thought I was going to blow a gasket.  Dad called me over and told me something.   He cupped his hands around his mouth and put them next to my ear and whispered a secret to me.

I looked up at him.

He winked at me and nodded.   “Do it” he said.

I remember the day was not quite full blown fall.  It was warm.  Greyish.  And yet plenty pretty enough to be outside.  Leaves had fallen.  We were at the base of the fire tower in the national parks.

It was a great day for play.

It was a great day to win.

On my next time to race I took the stance.  One leg forward.  Crouched.   I was ready to pounce.  The brother I was racing was standing all the way over there.   Grinning.   He knew he was going to win.

He knew wrong.

When dad yelled for us to go….I went.  I did exactly what he had told me to do.

The other kids were yelling.

I ran.

And I won.