A Love Letter from a Mother to Her Running Daughter
It was a decade-long dream come true to have you run with me. Ever since your big sister, Phoebe, was born—no, conceived—I’ve fantasized about having a child run alongside of me. Then you and your brother came into this world, and I suddenly had three precious children to share my beloved sport with. Yet until you started asking to run with me, none of you had shown any interest in running (well, other than chasing each other around the house, driving me bonkers as I cook dinner).
Then, there you came last Sunday, tearing into the kitchen the moment I walked in the back door after an easy three-mile run. I’d had to tell you the day before that, no, you could not run 20 miles with me, but that the next day you could run part of my three-miler. With the sky spitting on that overcast day, I wasn’t sure you’d still be game, so I finished my prescribed run (because your mother is, if you don’t know already, fanatical about doing exactly what her training plan calls for). Silly me: You’re an Oregonian through and through, and you were raring to go. Your New Balance running kicks were double-knotted (are you really old enough to tie them yourself?); you had on lavender long underwear that is about 3” too short, thus transformed into capris like your mama sports; and a zipped-up hoodie. Ready to rock, roll, and run.
We headed east on Brazee, a smile spreading across your impish face—and my usually stern one. And like any two gals who run side by side, we fell into easy conversation. When we’re at home, amidst the chaos, you are often a solo operator, playing with Little Pet Shops by yourself or drawing, as you absent-mindedly sing a song to yourself. Yet running, you were delightfully chatty. You pointed out that you and your bestie, Lucy, run together on Tuesday mornings when your class does laps around the school. I explained that we call women who run together, “BRFs.” Before I could explain to you it stood for “best running friends,” you blurted out, “Just like BFFs, best friends forever!” Clever girl.
When we turned right onto 28th, you got excited to run past “the cat house,” the big house on the corner that puts a massive, inflatable cat in the yard on Halloween. Then you got me talking about why I love running and why it’s my job to run. (That’s the popular theory floating amongst you and your sibs, and I don’t discourage it—it offers justification for why I travel so many weekends.) Just the night before, out of the blue, you’d asked how people get jobs. As we dodged a puddle, I wrapped your questions together into a teaching moment, telling you I don’t run because it’s my job. Rather, I love running, thus I turned it into my job. At that point, I think I might have even parroted Poppy [my Southern dad] and said, “Let your avocation be your vocation.”
A block later, instead of turning north toward our house, we continued straight: You were still bounding with excitement, and I wanted this moment to last forever. You suddenly blurted out, “When we get home, I get chocolate milk!” Oh, it’s Pavlovian: You’ve see me drink enough chocolate cow juice straight from the jug after a run to know it’s the ideal post-run refresher. I laughed and agreed.
I exclaimed over a cherry tree that had a few blossoms on it already, and you pointed at a namesake daphne bush covered in tight buds. Rounding the last corner before our house, you looked up at me and said, “When I grow up, we can do our jobs together.” It took me a few seconds to silently work through your 6-year-old logic. When I realized it was your way of saying that one day you, too, will be another mother runner, I simultaneously chortled and teared up.
In the kitchen, after you chug-a-lugged your chocolate milk, you took off your sweatshirt to reveal a T-shirt belonging to your big sister. It read, “Future Marathon Runner.”
All my love,
Your Exquisitely Proud Mother