Lives are made of moments. Small ones. Big ones. Moments that blend seamlessly into the next and moments that change everything.
Many, many of my life’s moments have happened while watching my children play. Quiet play. Noisy play. Play that seamlessly passes time and play that once-in-awhile changes everything. Play that combines the ideals of the individual with the ideals of humanity.
Recently, my daughter Audrey honored me with blog she wrote, telling how she felt about my love and commitment as she dreamed of becoming an Olympian swimmer. Audrey’s words filled my heart as she wrote about the Core Values of the U.S. Olympic Movement: Excellence, Respect & Friendship. While reading Audrey’s beautiful post, memories of her swimming years and days and hours and minutes swelled in my mind like the waves she made while soaring through the water. Audrey was blessed to have had a stellar swimming career, doing something she loved so very much. I still have the hundreds of ribbons and trophies and medals and newspaper clippings and college recruitment letters that tell the story of her swimming successes. But there is one moment… one moment… that stands out above all the rest. A moment that transformed playing a sport into the ideal of humanity. A moment of excellence, respect & friendship that made an imprint on my very soul.
This is the story of that one moment…
Audrey learned to swim when she was 3, but didn’t join her first summer swim team until she was 6. And if you know anything about Audrey, you won’t be surprised to learn that the team swim suit itself was the big draw. She loved the color and style and fashion of the suit… green with vertical white stripes. And she loved that the swim team coach nicknamed the littlest swimmers “pickles” because they looked like, well… pickles in those green suits. Audrey also liked being a fast pickle and worked very hard at being fast.
Summer teams turned into winter teams. Club teams turned into United States Swimming Teams. Jane had joined Audrey in this swimming endeavor and was acquiring a formidable collection of awards of her own… and Barry and I went along for the ride. Moments became years, and Audrey’s love of swimming brought her to swim for both her Swim Club Team and her high school swim team. Swimming for both was a major time commitment, but Audrey felt ready for both.
It was at a Girls’ Swimming Rhode Island High School Championship Meet that Audrey demonstrated a moment of Excellence, Respect & Friendship that has become one of my most cherished moments of parenthood. Audrey was a sophomore, but was seeded first in both the 100 Freestyle and 100 Breaststroke. As a matter of fact, Audrey had a chance to break the Girls’ High School record in the 100 Breast. She felt prepared. Her practices had been outstanding and she was wearing a suit… called a “paper suit”… that she had never worn before. A “paper suit” is a suit as light as a piece of paper, and the theory is that this weight differentiation from a “regular suit” will allow the swimmer to swim faster. The suit did not come cheap. Even way back then, the “paper suit” was, as I recall, $60.00… and because of it’s delicate fabric, should only be worn once. Once. The suit was also so tight that it literally had to be rolled onto the body. And then rolled off. I had seen paper suits tear in half as they rolled on and off girls’ bodies. We had purchased Audrey’s paper suit for both of her races. In other words, once on… it had to stay on until the meet was over!
Audrey swam her 100 Free and won her race. As she came up to me in the stands, all out of breath and excited, I thought her enthusiasm was about the race. It wasn’t. She said to me, in quick breaths, “Mom, I need to lend my paper suit to Tammy. Can you help me get it off?”
I thought, “WHAT?” I think I even said aloud, “WHAT?”
But Audrey was insistent. “Mom, she’s a senior, and she wants to win her race. Please come help me.”
Yes, Tammy was a senior. She and Audrey were friends from their Club Team. But Tammy was about 8 inches taller than Audrey and she swam for another high school. Not to mention that once that paper suit was off (and cost $60!)… who knew what would happen to it. And Audrey had her potential record-breaking Breaststroke in, like, soon.
Maybe I even mentioned these things to Audrey.
Audrey looked at me. I could see in her eyes that helping her friend swim her very best last race of her high school career meant more to Audrey than just about anything in the world. I didn’t hesitate one more moment. We flew into the locker room. Tammy and I rolled the paper suit off Audrey’s body in meticulous movements. Synchronized. Audrey held her breath. Then Audrey and I rolled the paper suit onto Tammy. Quickly. Her race was being called from the pool deck. Up and over her long body to her shoulders. Holding my breath that it would rip before my eyes. It didn’t. Audrey and Tammy raced to the deck. I raced to the stands. Tammy swam her race and did swim her fastest time ever. She was beaming.
No time to think. I saw Audrey and Tammy race back into the locker room. I raced down to meet them. Same thing. Hold your breath, Tammy… ‘cuz this isn’t gonna be easy. But we did it. Rolled off Tammy. Rolled back on Audrey.
Audrey did swim her 100 Breaststroke that day. She did break the high school record. It was a record that would stand for 14 years, until Olympian Laura Sogar from Prout High School in Rhode Island shattered Audrey’s record. (It’s not too bad to have your record broken by an Olympian, by the way!)
The swims that day. The record-breaking that day. The 2 relays that Audrey crushed on that day, also breaking the high school records. None of this meant more to me than my daughter’s value of FRIENDSHIP… and RESPECT of the dreams of another. Yes, it was a day of complete and awesome EXCELLENCE… and EXCELLENCE in moments that change everything. It is a moment that will always be Close to My Heart.