Monday, February 22, 2010

Remembering Eight-Year-Olds

Today, while taking a walk around my neighborhood, I passed a driveway on which two eight-year-old girls were clutching the passenger-door handle of a Honda Accord and shrieking. They appeared to be playing a game.

It has been twelve years since I’ve had an eight-year-old.

The experience made me remember so many things I’ve forgotten.

To wit:

--Eight-year-olds like to yell for no reason;

--They are loud even when they are not yelling;

--They are always hungry for what one doesn’t have in the house;

--They are unafraid to tell one how deficient one’s selection of snacks is;

--Their games do not look interesting to adults;

--There is nothing more exquisite than being at a friend’s house after school;

--It is very, very nice to have a friend over after school, but slightly less nice than being the guest because of family-member-related anxiety (little brothers who insist on being included; mothers who buy bad snacks);

--Eight-year-olds never want to go home (unless they are on their first-ever sleepover and it is 2 AM and their parents will not answer their phone);

--Eight-year-olds have no fashion sense;

--Eight-year-olds may or may not be interested in talking to the parents of their friends, but if they are not interested, it is usually because they are shy and not because they think parents are too hideous to live.

I miss eight-year-olds.

Well, I miss my own.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Citius, Altius, Fortius

We have been watching the Olympics.

For many years, I hated the Olympics, mainly because they require the participation of people who are good at sports. People who are good at sports tend to be people with whom I have nothing in common. They are, in my experience, optimistic, driven, headstrong, persistent, and indefatigable. I (gloomy and lazy, with notable expertise in sleeping and giving up easily) prefer the company of my own kind.

I am the sort of person who is not fun to watch the Olympics with if one enjoys watching the Olympics. I am always making comments about how figure skaters are anorexic whether they know it or not, how snowboarders were probably in the slow-readers group in elementary school, how Americans’ adoration of athletes as heroes is disgusting and tiresome. Why don’t we clap and cheer for teachers and nurses? I am always wondering aloud. Robert nods in weary agreement, straining to hear the sportscaster. (Really, it is a wonder he hasn’t put a blanket over my head and locked me in the linen closet. If there were an Olympic medal for patience, he would win it.)

This year, while I continue to whine ceaselessly (about the Chinese figure-skating pairs’ oddly antiquated music, about elite athletes’ lack of a healthy childhood, about Bob Costas), I am finding myself moved and exhilarated in a way I’ve never been before. What I’m seeing, as if for the first time, are the grace and beauty of human beings pushing themselves to do things they shouldn’t be able to do. In a year in which I’ve endured quite a bit of illness, I am newly appreciative of healthy, vibrant, intact bodies urged to extraordinary heights.

It’s not as though I’m suddenly a different person. I’m not going to stop thinking that we’d be better off as families/communities/societies if we spent more time applauding intelligence and decency and less time measuring just how fast Junior can ski down a bumpy hill.

But maybe I’ll marvel just a little at the things we humans can do when we set our sights on distant goals. Maybe I will try to bring a little of that persistence and stick-to-it-ive-ness to my own life, my own battles. Maybe I will secretly cheer when the apple-cheeked American crosses the finish line first.

Just don't expect me to stop complaining.  For one thing, those uniforms.  I mean, come on.