Thousands of kids across the country are currently, or have just finished, participating in a “Field Day” of games and displays of athletic prowess. Every school has a different name for it. You know of which I speak.
I feel so sorry for them.
Like the odd duck that I am, I always dreaded Field Day.
I was a kid who rarely talked to anyone if it wasn’t necessary, something I would realize three decades later was generalized anxiety disorder. Even back when I was a tiny third grader, I got up the nerve to try and talk my gym teacher out of making me participate in Field Day.
It didn’t work.
She assured me she would put me into something easy. The 50 yard dash, she said. I had no idea how long that was, but any distance I have to run is too long.
It was a chilly morning, so I wore my grey hooded sweatshirt. I ran as fast as I could. I came in fourth. That might not sound bad, but there were only four kids in the race. Total.
They gave me a ribbon to remember my shame. (It is still in my house somewhere. I think my young son ran off with it.)
I just talked to my mom on the phone, in 2017, and she was apparently there in the stands. (I don’t remember that, but I don’t remember a lot of things.) She remembers that there were other mothers sitting in front of her who watched my performance and felt bad that I was so far behind the other kids.
Great boost of confidence there, mother. I know I am forty-one years old now, but that doesn’t really help the old self-esteem any.
I guess this is where LOVE YOURSELF would come in handy.
If I remember right, I didn’t even know that the 50 yard dash was an event you ran. It could have been a long jump for all I knew. I probably had to wait for the other kids to start before I even knew where the finish line was. (It is a good story. I think I will stick to it.)
Someone took a picture of the racers standing behind big signs that showed where each of us placed. They took the picture from my end. The losing end.
They put that picture of me behind the giant four, with my sweatshirt hanging off one shoulder, my hair escaping my ponytail, and looking winded, in the glass display case in the main hallway at school the next year.
And the year after.
And so on.
I was a week from graduating high school, happened to be walking through the elementary building, and there I was, in that picture, STILL BEHIND THE DAMN FOUR!
I believe to this day they are probably still putting up the same picture of me from June 1985. Boy, I bet my clothes look really dated now.
I Googled “Field Day 1983” and half expected my picture to pop up. So far, it hasn’t.
Even more amazing, that is the ONLY YEAR I ever participated in Field Day. Maybe that is why they thought it was momentous enough to display year after year.
At my school, when I was there, only third, fourth, and fifth graders competed in Field Day. It was the 80s. All the kids drank Kool-Aid and Sunny Delight and watched copious amounts of television. There wasn’t a drive for everyone to exercise. Society was busy telling us to Say No to drugs.
I didn’t avoid Field Day in fourth grade on purpose. I had the pox. (Chicken, not small.) I missed the last two weeks of school. I had a grumpy teacher all that year who seemed very tired and done with teaching. What kind of reward did I get for putting up with her all year? I had to miss her retirement party 😦 Although cupcakes and treats were left inside my desk for when I returned. (Eesh, talk about unsafe food storage conditions!)
The next year I did avoid Field day on purpose. My mom took me to the lake. She is a good mom. I thought she was just being kind to her woefully unathletic daughter for all these years. (It is genetic, after all.) But now that she told me that story about the mothers in the stands, maybe SHE just didn’t want to have to feel bad for me again.
And if the goal for the day is exercise, then the school should be satisfied. I am sure I got way more exercise at the lake than I ever would have running a race for two minutes and feeling anxious the rest of the day.
Middle school had many, many (too many to mention) hells of its own, such as showering after gym class and dissecting frogs and all those pubescent hormones trapped inside a building with gray concrete walls and no windows all day, every day. But at least I got to leave the hell that was Field Day back at the elementary.
Remember, if you see me running fast, then either there is an escaped dog in front of me or a zombie behind me.
From the broken mind of Jennifer Friess, the joining of hearts & souls…
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