“I’ve been picked for the cross country team,” beamed Pinkie a few Friday’s ago.
Naturally, I volunteered to go on the coach and help with the children, it was a big day and I wanted to be there, just to see her complete the course. We had prepared by doing extra physio each evening since team selection, just to try and maximise Pinkie’s lung function. Pinkie doesn’t go to a fiercely competitive school, and there was no undue pressure to perform, it was as much about behaving well and representing the school in a positive way.
Obviously, it was a cold rainy day, when has cross country ever been anything else? I had bought a flask of tea, a deck chair and a roll of bin liners (make do kids ponchos if it suddenly poured down, I am a Brownies Owl don’t forget). The tea was a warm miracle, the rest was excess baggage because the excitement keep us warm and on our feet.
Pinkie’s year had to run around two fields, it was far. Far as in far for an adult, but set off they did. I watched a vague movement on the horizon and as it got closer I could make out the shape of children. Then the colours of their kit, then each child as an individual, then Pinkie. There she was keeping up with the leading pack.
“Oh Pinkie, don’t run out of steam,” I whispered quietly, “breathe Pinkie.” She was the colour of a kidney bean.
I had assembled a cheer squad on the last bend, and God love these little children, they cheered everyone, they just upped the volume and went crazy when one of ours ran past. I noticed that our children were the only ones doing that, the other eight schools were just cheering their own.
Pinkie’s best pal stormed home to victory, her good friend came second and then my hero, my sweet little kidney bean came over the hill in sixth place, and she managed to stay there to the finish line. I was ready to rent an open top bus to tour the country, waving to the general public with the Sally Army belting out tune after tune from the back.
Then another incredible thing happened, Pinkie smiled at me, then slipped back into the group of children as they joined in with the cheering for those who were struggling to finish. It occurred to me, Pinkie was just one of them, no different, not special - she was just the girl that finished sixth.
Its moments like these when the future doesn't seem so scary, that I dare to look forwards, that I know Pinkie is full of fight (and oxygen) and that if we can stay well there will be a solution. I will look back and remember the days when I used to worry myself sick, "Do you remember those days?" and Mr will smile and say, "thank God we don't have that hanging over us anymore."
I can dream.
Friday evening Mr declared it had been a day to remember and that once again we were going out for dinner to celebrate. Blue, who is on a growing week where no amount of food is enough, was thrilled.
“Well done Pinkie, I’m really pleased with you, and I can have an adults burger and dessert because I’m starving,” he said.
I glanced over my shoulder at him.
“What? I’m keeping it real. Feet on the ground and all that,” he smiled.
I kissed the top of his head, glad that he isn’t too tall yet.
We had a delicious meal next to an open fire in a country pub and I had a large glass of red wine, there was not too much wrong with the world. On the way home Pinkie was silent. I knew she’d fallen asleep.
“What a shame to wake her up,” said Mr.
“She did her physio and nebulisers before we went out,” I said, “I knew she was tired.”
And just like the old days, Mr carried a sleeping Pinkie into the house, I removed her shoes and coat like I was playing Operation, then Mr laid her straight into her bed.