Ducks in a Row
Extracurricular activities. I never imagined I would struggle with these two little words. And yet. Our girls are six. And still not enrolled in anything.
Now, it’s not like we’re trying to raise Olympic Athletes here. We’ve always believed we should let them develop their own interests. Or the same ones. And it’s made sense to begin with the kind of activities that would reinforce things they needed anyway – a season of Little Gym for motor skills; summer swimming lessons for, you know, preventing death. Year by year, what they like has become clearer and clearer.
Sarah wants to be a ballerina. Emma really likes hockey. Ashley, she likes to run. Fast. And it’s like she just knows.
A month ago, we got an email from our school PTO. Roughly, it said, “Oh hai. FYI. Your kids are doing a fun run. In about 5 days. Here’s an incoherent day-by-day breakout of school activities leading up the event but don’t worry, you new folks don’t need any logistical details whatsoever. Please raise $90/kid. kthxbye”.
Despite my initial communication frustrations, Sarah, Emma and Ashley all came home that day EXTREMELY excited about being in their first race. I registered them, sent out pledge requests, and tried to work out that crazy $/lap math. At dinner, they chattered about how fast they’d run, who’d they’d pass, the pizza party they’d win, and something about a prize robot. Trav and I clarified they weren’t running against anyone, so much as they were running for themselves. We all began to get very excited.
Then our first pledge came in. From one of my very best friends. At first, I was taken aback – partly because I hate asking people for money; partly because I never expected anyone but family to give; but mostly, because of Allison.
Allison is her daughter. I knew her only a few years. She died of cancer at the age of 30, almost exactly a year to the date of the fun run. Allison also had Cerebral Palsy. I remember her mother telling me how she asked as a child why she couldn’t run like the other kids. I just couldn’t stop thinking about that. And I felt we had to acknowledge Allison somehow.
The second I thought of that, I realized there was someone else who needed to be there, too.
This is my cousin-in-law, Dan Maas. He was a runner. More specifically, he was a national champion from the Adams State men’s track & field teams, a 1992 Olympic Trials Finalist and an athlete on the Adidas & Reebok Racing Teams 1992-1996.
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Dan Maas, accepting RMAC Hall of Fame honors on behalf of the 1990 and 1992 Adams State men’s indoor track & field NAIA title teams, telling his famous story, “do it for the duck.”
Dan and Loan Maas died in a car crash on August 2016. It was all so terrible and I’m really not over it. I can’t even link to any of the articles, I get so upset. They were really, really good people. I miss them terribly.
My first thought was to run to the party store and grab a set of angel wings. But that felt incredibly literal. Also, non-functional. Also? Please imagine three kindergarteners trying to run their lanes with a pair of wings flopping up and down, back and forth. Then add at least 80 more kids to the track. That has the probability of lasting a sum total of 3.5 seconds before inducing either rage or tears. Probably both.
We definitely needed t-shirts. Red ones. With duck wings. And a medallion shape of some sort. For months, I haven’t been able to get the medals the boys wore as kids out of my mind:
“They run for each other, not just for themselves.” ~ Dan Maas
In my perfect world, where production time, shipping costs and interruptions have no bearing, this is the shirt I designed for the girls:
But then, I got a call. To be in Phoenix, AZ the day after the run. So, we booked the flight, I packed my bags and the day of the race, I set off on my own track made of clouds, light and computer code.
While they were running, I was somewhere over Nevada. But I didn’t go without leaving these for Daddy & the girls to wear instead:
They each made their goal: running a total of 35 laps each. Ashley ran a fast pace on the inside track, while her sisters waved manically at Dad in the stands every time they saw him. For myself, I still don’t know what place I finished, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. I was running for myself, and for my team, too.
One last thing that doesn’t reduce me to tears: this video of Dan and Brendan doing their “Bro Run” at the Colorado Relay 2008. Inspired by a fellow Triplet Mom, I recently started ‘jogging’. I’m nowhere remotely near what I would call running, but I think of this every time I go out.
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Dan Maas will be inducted into the RMAC Hall of Fame on Friday, July 14, 2017