It was Sports Day at the girl's school today, a sort of end-of-term celebration. "Good good! You're wearing your whites," the English matron Mrs W. bellowed when we met her in the hall this morning. "Yes I know it's cold, but at least it's not rain!" she added as she briskly limped off, waving her arms, out to attack the million tasks that awaited her before the races could begin. When I returned an hour later, the children were sitting messily on benches along the field; colored flags marked the finish line. Another cold, overcast day; parents and grandparents wearing khakis and tweed, it felt like mid-football season at Princeton. I joined some of the mothers on the veranda above the field.
"... I mean, yes, he's only two," S. was saying. "I know it's too early to push them, but I found myself telling him in the car this morning, 'You have to win, Ari! You have to win!'" S. is elegant and lovely, pure beauty, she flicks her hair behind her shoulder like Cher.
"That's ridiculous my dear! But then you're Asian-Kenyan so you have to say that," said K. who was in Belgrade last week and will be in Somalia next. "I absolutely don't care how Jay does, only that he has fun. And beats Ari."
"Darling," S. said. "Don't stand too close to me during the race. We don't want any unfortunate incidents with Mrs. W. watching."
"It's doesn't matter anyway," my rational American friend said. "They're running against Kenyans. Forget it!" It was true. Our kids---as lithe and gorgeous and fun and cute and smart and perfect as they are---didn't have a chance.
Through the loudspeaker, Mrs. W called the first class up. Five two-year-olds were lined up by a teacher in the middle of the field. A whistle blew. The crowds went wild, the children ran to the teddy bears placed ahead of them, then continued to their mothers waiting at the end of the course---Run my love, Yay darling, Come my dear, Come to me! the mothers were shouting. The children were running, laughing, giddy with joy---immune from ambition, immune from fear, immune from having to do better---flying on the glory of the moment...
And so why, when they fell into their mothers arms at the finish line, were we all crying? Why does it break the heart so?