The Olympics are coming to a close today and I still haven't watched the opening ceremonies. We were down in Hill Country at Craig's cousin's wedding so I'm just waiting for a nice four hour stretch of time when I have nothing to do so I can catch up on my DVR.
Right. So.....when Natalie goes off to college?
But in all seriousness, the Olympics this year brought on some major tears - most notably was when Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won their third consecutive Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball.
I just sat on the bed with tears streaming down my face.
Craig looked over in confusion. "You're really crying." It wasn't as much a question as it was a declaration tinged with a bit of bewilderment.
I was really crying. And for very good reason too.
As I've mentioned before, growing up was hard for me just because I felt awkward and gawky and generally ugly due to my long skinny legs, flat chest and difficulty finding clothes that fit my rapidly growing frame. My mother, standing resolutely average at around 5'6 had no idea how to help me. She never had to struggle with finding pants that were long enough nor did she truly understand why I hated my height. She was my mother and in her eyes, I was a perfectly made gift from God.
Unfortunately, my peers did not view my height in the same regard.
Watching Kerri (standing tall at 6'2) play for a gold medal stirred something in me. At the rate she is going, Natalie will be long and lean just like me. But growing up for her will be different. She will have role models to look up to. She will have a momma who understands the struggles of being tall. She will be able to watch the Olympics and see that tall women can be athletic, strong, competitive and beautiful. People don't look to Kerri Walsh Jennings as a freak of nature but instead as a powerful woman. I am so grateful that there will be women in my daughter's life to show her at an early age how she can use her height to an athletic advantage, but still retain her femininity.
And then there were the tears that Kerri and Misty were sharing while interviewing after their big win, their hands firmly entwined with each others. Teamwork. Women working together for a common goal. Sharing powerful experiences with your best friend. So many times in media, culture and society women are made out to be catty, insecure, backstabbing creatures. Watch any recent season of The Bachelor and you will see exactly what I mean. But on that night last week when Kerri and Misty stood together as not only teammates but best friends, I cried because I wholly understand how sports can unite women together.
The three years that I spent teaching and coaching at my former school were spent side by side not only with my future husband, but with one of my nearest and dearest friends. Beri is a few years older than me and we met when I was young and wild and she was married but childless. Although our life experiences are vastly different, we found a commonality through sports, teeny-bopper movies and a similar outlook on life. During our second year of coaching together, we won a district volleyball championship with a very special group of 8th graders. Our win was a team effort - I watched the statistics and kept track of servers and substitutions while she called out encouragement and adjustments to the players. When the final point clicked onto the scoreboard notating our district victory, our girls rushed out onto the court in a screaming heap of ponytails, spandex and knee pads.......Beri and I breathed a sigh of relief, looked at each other and high-fived. We both enjoy our personal space.
But not only did we coach together but our classrooms were right next door to one another and we had the same conference period. We spent mornings in each other's rooms catching on on television gossip and trading stories from the previous day. During passing periods we were both out in the hallway, leaning against the wall between our rooms discussing curriculum, students and parents.....and often trading advice and strategies. Every Friday was our Starbucks tradition - we traded off buying coffee for each other, me drinking the Skinny Vanilla Latte and Beri a White Chocolate Mocha. It was during one of those morning "meetings" in Beri's room that she announced to me that she was pregnant. There were tears, hugs and laughter. There was the time when I sped down the road on my extra long conference period to be there for her ultrasound - the first time I got a glimpse of her precious daughter. She stood by my side when I married Craig and she was one of the first people whom I told I was pregnant.
We won a championship because we demonstrated to the girls the most important things about being a part of a team - friendship, respect, laughter and support. Everyday. For three years. Now our time together is spent outside of a gym at restaurants for dinner with just the two of us trading stories of life with small children, our new positions at new schools and the same crappy reality tv shows that we still watch. Or we'll meet up at the mall for a play date with her 3 year old, my 17 month old and her 9 month old. Those conversations are held in between corralling children and handing out snacks, but are fun and meaningful nonetheless.
Over the past six years of our friendship we have celebrated one wedding, three births, one masters degree and two promotions together....in addition to the ups and downs of daily life. Sure we weren't out in the sand wearing bikinis and winning gold medals, but we were a fierce team - a great combination of friendship and compatibility - where one lacked, the other was strong. I saw our friendship and teamwork reflected in the championship team of Kerri and Misty, who....at the bottom line....are just two great friends playing a game they both love.
And so I cried. I cried with pride for my daughter - that she will have great role models of how to be a strong and tall woman. I cried with bittersweet tears - I love my friend and I'm proud of where we both are in our lives, but I miss the times we spent together on the bench and in the classroom.
This is why I love the Olympics.