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In Response to Re: Mother's Day:
This is an essay I wrote years ago, but always brings a tear to my eye. Enjoy.
Gold, Godivas, or Good Running Shoes
What’s a man to give a woman?
By Susan Grandgeorge
I stood mid pack. Faster, record-breaking runners rightfully took front placement. If my non-sinewy body didn’t peg me as a rookie, my Sony Walkman did. It was music that put one foot in front of the other during my few months of running. But I observed an absence of headsets here. Complying, ear phones removed, I absorbed the surprising silence of the hundreds of participants. This silence had a rhythm. Pace watches ticked. The shoulder to shoulder pack moved in place, undulating, like pistons in an engine, white caps on a choppy sea. With focused psyches, the runners awaited the start gun snap.
The crack startled and the ribbon of runners slowly unfurled, leaving me in place for quite a while. Finally breaking free, elbows found space to swing and my eye was drawn to the sidelines. I saw men, no women, only men and children lined the street. There were fathers, boyfriends, brothers and sons. There were strollers, wagons and bikes. There were signs held high and loud, jubilant cheering. All those men, all those men and children, they were there for their woman. They were there for the women in their lives. They screamed praise. They chanted encouragement.
“I love you, Janie.”
“You can do it, Sis.”
“You make us proud.”
“Isn’t she beautiful?”
I exclaimed to those still close to me, “It is all men! I have never had this - only male on-lookers, and so many.”
A wise and breathy voice came back, “I guess this is your first Bonne Bell.”
“Yes,” I huffed, “but you can bet your fitness it won’t be my last.”
Mothers Day is one of only two days a year, my birthday the other, that I choose my activities guilt-free. The Bonne Bell was a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) running race held each year for only women on Mothers Day. I had been a mother for 16 months. I was a sporadic runner prior to pregnancy, but running had grown in immense importance since then. It provided a badly-needed means for solitude and reflection. It was a conduit to self-esteem and a stress release. I had many things to make me feel good at that time, but running made me feel good like nothing else did. Should I run a race for women on Mothers Day? Well that was certainly a worthy goal. In fact, that was a goal a husband could support.
With his help, I pursued my worthy goal. Several days a week, my arms and legs extended beyond the rigid cradling stance of infant care. My lungs filled with fresh air. My brain cells broke restrictive problem-solving patterns to roam pleasurable pastures of fantasy. My muscles, strained and pained at first, warmed and performed until depletion-induced nirvana set in. I returned from a run a different person - a separate, individual person, a whole person. I was again able, until the next run, to sacrifice personal space ensuring the well being of a small and wonderful child.
The thrill of male adulation was soon replaced with panting and heart pounding. I was forced to return to my Walkman ways. The talent of Lionel Ritchie drowned my miseries. Yet I never lost sight of the vivacious male cheerleaders. Rounding each curve brought new views of applause, encouragement signage and offspring elevated on shoulders. Fans ran a length with their mates, patted the gluteus maximum lovelingly. Others waved, cheered, and manned the video camera. Support was incomparable. Amazingly, it was for all of us. It was not just for the long gone leaders. It was for me, my post pregnant plodding, and for the surprising amount of runners behind me. It was unending. The men continued their chants, their smiles, and their genuine displays of admiration for the entire two hours it took for all runners to finish.
Nearing the end, and exhaustion, a new beat met my ears. Goose bumps rose. Blaring from the loud speakers, in harmony with the cheers, was the appropriate and heart wrenching Helen Reddy’s, “I AM WOMAN”. I plodded and sobbed and slowed… into the welcome arms of my husband and daughter. I never felt so accomplished or so appreciated.
Free yogurt, mineral water and stretch instruction ensued, post race, on the grass. The awards ceremony respectfully waited for all runners to finish. The tables were lined with silver hand bells…. “Bonne Bells”, for the winners. They glittered in the sun as did my skin and my mood. The winner of the 60 years and over group beat my race time… big time. A 73-year-old great grandmother rang her winning Bonne Bell with loose under-bicep flesh swinging and wrinkled smile stretching across the stage. No bell was for me, but I was a winner. I was proud to be a mother, to be a woman, to be a runner. It was then that I vowed I would always celebrate my womanhood and my motherhood by running a Mothers Day race.
The Bonne Bell race doesn’t exist any longer, probably knocked out by some anti-sexist, equitability-in-racing group. I don’t mother infants anymore. My children are grown. I don’t run anymore. I blew out one knee somehow. But I do take on a ferocious speed walk with wrist weights four days a week. And every Mothers Day, my two daughters, my sister-in-law, and I find a race to run (or walk). It isn’t all women, but it remains one of life’s highlights for all of us.
So to the men out there shopping for that perfect Mothers Day gift for their woman, listen to me. Pass the jewelry store, pass the candy counter, pass the dress shop, pass the florist. Head straight and fast into the nearest athletic store. Buy the running shoes. Take warning though. The gift must be given with willingness to baby-sit, housesit, cook dinner, whatever it takes. It is given with the promise to allow this woman to get out and run on a regular basis. It must also come with another promise. Very early one Sunday in May, you will pack the kids, the poster board and the markers in the car. You will show that woman with the new calf muscles that to you, she is worth everything. Only then will you have a truly happy Mothers Day, filled with sweat and tears and heavy endorphins.
Posted by MamaHoo
Dear Mama MamaHoo:
Thank you for sharing this wonderful essay. Your exceptional way of writing kept me interested from beginning to end.
The Bonne Bell race sounds like an exciting event, where women could demonstrate their running abilities. It is too bad that the race doesn't exist anymore, but now days we have the marathons where women and men can compete.
A pair of running shoes for mothers day is a great idea. I look forward to more of your posts.