Friday, July 3, 2009
Funny the Way It Is
"Funny the way it is, if you think about it
Somebody’s going hungry and someone else is eating out
Funny the way it is, not right or wrong
Somebody’s heart is broken and it becomes your favorite song"
Stories. We all have them. We have our stories, stories about our friends, our children, our partners.
I’m always struck by the stories of our girls. This year I had the opportunity to attend at least half a dozen of our New Balance Girls on the Run 5k’s around the nation. Every girl, every mother, every father, every coach, every council director has a story for their day. An empty, often unoccupied physical space is transformed for several hours into a space in time where memories are made and life’s chapters unfold. A starting line, balloons, music, finish line barriers and volunteers magically arrive a couple of hours before the stories begin.
That's where I met Maddie. She is in Girls on the Run.
She had just completed her first twelve-week session. She has a school of tiny freckles swimming across her nose and stands about four feet high—she’s tiny, even for a third grader. She has dirty-blond hair down to her waist that she always wears loose.
Maddie's mom pulled me to the side, moments before the run started to share with me that she and her husband had separated two weeks before the final New Balance Girls on the Run 5k. He moved out, for reasons Maddie doesn’t understand now—though she may one day, mothers’ can’t explain the details of that story to a third grader.
Maddie can’t put words to the separation yet, though she knows that her life is different—that her mom is sad and her dad is gone—and, while the voice of it hasn’t come to her yet, the expression in her eyes can’t hide the fear, the lack of understanding, the feeling of suspended time, the unsettling of it all.
Maddie’s mom and dad came to watch her run in her big event. They saw their little girl finish her first 5k. They saw determination in her eyes—a blessed substitute for the anxiety she had carried there lately. I saw Maddie’s mom cry and watched her father try to be stoic. But they were there for her to support that little-girl spirit, to watch this child-soul float across the three miles of asphalt.
I took their picture at the finish line—all three of them. Maddie's dad asked me to take it, Maddie sandwiched in the middle.
I wonder what expression the lens caught. Did it see the truth behind their eyes—their love for her little life and the turmoil of their own?
Maddie will remember that day—that story—forever. Mom and Dad came together for her. They put aside their own drama to watch her do something that allowed her girl-spirit to rise above the confusion—for 3.1 miles anyway—to jointly welcome her to the finish line in spite of the angst between the two of them.
That story will be memorialized in the photo that I had the privilege of taking. My hands captured that picture, framed it in the lens, held the camera steady, and directed...
“One two, three, cheese.”
Five minutes of my life and years of theirs.
"Lying in the park on a beautiful day,
sunshine in the grass, and the children play.
Siren’s passing, fire engine red,
someone’s house is burning down on a day like this?"