8:12 a.m. — Tammy is off to the races, literally, a 5K down at the middle school. It is her second official race since she took up the sport a few months ago, and she is pretty excited. In her first race, it was snowing and she dropped her keys, which knocked a good minute or so off her time. Now the weather is beautiful and she will not be racing with keys. Kayden is also off, going to Ghost Town with a friend and her friend’s parents, who have just arrived to pick her up. The usual commotion of hugs and kisses and good wishes. I can hear the bedsprings creaking upstairs in Jack’s room, which means he is jumping up and down on his bed. “Out, out, out, out,” he says.
8:27 a.m. – He’s having his breakfast of peach yogurt and orange juice to go. I manage to push the stroller down Boyd Avenue with one hand and drink precious long gulps of hazelnut-flavored coffee out of my thermos with the other. We’re going to make it there in plenty of time to cheer mom on as she rounds the turn toward the finish line. Jack has already kicked one sandal off. A dog barks at us once from a fenced yard, then returns to other pursuits.
9:03 a.m. — Mom comes around the last turn and we give a cheer. When she sees us there, the tortured expression on her face lightens a little and she breaks into a sprint to the finish line to join her brethren, a small cluster of impossibly lean people in nylon shorts and sleeveless shirts bearing numbers, their shoulder blades sharp enough to carve meat. As Jack digs out the last of his yogurt, I think fleetingly of sausage biscuits and immediately feel guilty in the presence of all this exercise.
9:15 a.m. — I push the stroller through a phalanx of runners toward Mom, who is sitting with a friend on a curb talking about the race. “MOMMY!” yells Jack when she comes into view. This is better than getting a T shirt, I suspect, or even placing in her age group. There is some loose talk going around that she might have placed in the top three, quite a feat considering she is relatively new to the sport. “Let’s go get an apple,” she says. I notice a lot of dogs around — what is that about?
10:02 a.m. — Now we are on a ballfield, waiting on the results to be announced. Jack is out of the stroller, and wild as usual. He trips over first base and does a belly flop, then jumps up and charges toward center field, as if he were leading the Charge of the Light Brigade. There is no use in yelling for him to stop, so I do what I always do. I charge after him.
10:17 a.m. — Still no results, and now we are sitting in the dugout, probably the first time I have sat in a dugout in 30 years. I manage to convince Jack that there is an imaginary game taking place right in front of our eyes. “Game, game, game,” he says. “Cox hits a drive to deep left center,” I reply. “It’s back, back, way back ... it’s outta here!” And so is Jack, headed back toward the field. I pursue.
10:32 a.m. — We can’t take it anymore. Still no results, and Jack has passed the stage of boredom and is now full into grouchiness. He has petted every dog, inspected every nook and cranny of the field, and chatted up every similar-sized person he can find. He is ready to go. Now. Plans are made for a late breakfast, and we stroll toward home, Jack still fussing until we pass a house with a trampoline in the yard. “Jump, jump, jump ...”
11:36 a.m. — Well, Mommy finished fourth in her age group, so our breakfast at Connie’s Kitchen has become a cause for celebration. Jack celebrates by squeezing grape jelly out of a packet all over his hands and a dinosaur coloring book. “Yay!”
12:45 p.m. — Jack is down for a nap, saints be praised. Tammy and I take showers and relax a few minutes before I have to get to work on a pile of papers written by my Introduction to Literature students.
1:42 p.m. — The papers have been pretty good, but I can only grade about five at a time before having to take a little break. Sitting on the deck in my rocking chair, I read an article in Time magazine about obesity and think of the runners from this morning, most of whom looked as if they had never seen a piece of cheesecake, much less eaten one. I, on the other hand, am haunted by the ghost of Bojangles past.
2:14 p.m. — Jack is awake now, and so is Tammy. They go to the grocery store so I can make some more progress on my stack of papers.
3:31 p.m. — Another commotion. Just minutes after Tammy and Jack arrive with a trunk full of groceries, Kayden arrives as well, with lots of stories to tell. Her friend’s dad is trying to get us to take the $10 we gave him to buy her lunch and refreshments, but we won’t take it, so he tries to give it to Kayden, and we won’t let him do that either. She runs around the house, crying. “I wanted the money,” she sobs. A discussion for later. Right now, the ice cream is melting in one of the grocery bags strewn on the kitchen floor.
4:07 p.m. — I have to get out of here. I decide to go run on the treadmill — much more my speed than a 5K — down at the fitness center. We’ve decided on a cookout for dinner. “Dang it, I forgot the charcoal,” Tammy says from the kitchen.
5:12 p.m. — I’m in K-Mart to pick up that bag of charcoal, still sweaty from my run, my back stiff and aching. Good boy. Tammy will be happy that I remembered the charcoal.
5:29 p.m. — “Finally,” she says, when I get home. Tammy is not as happy as I had hoped. I have forgotten the “pink party,” whatever that is, and she’s half an hour late. She is frazzled, but not angry. “The hamburger patties are ready,” she says, kissing me on her way out the door in her adorable little pink and white get-up. “All you have to do is start the grill and watch the kids.” Why not say, “All you have to do is teach the children a foreign language while putting in the extra bathroom upstairs before I get home”? That seems just as realistic. But I soldier on.
6:36 p.m. — Trying not to burn the hamburgers. Trying to keep the kids from depositing every piece of gravel from the driveway into the yard. Failing, it seems.
7:11 p.m. — Mom arrives with gifts for everyone in little pink and white bags. She lifts Jack in one arm. I am standing there in the yard holding a plate of steaming, seared meat. “Ooh, looks like Jack may have diarrhea,” she says. “Didn’t you see that?” I did not see that.
8:45 p.m. — Dinner turned out fine, the kids are washed up and asleep in their beds, and we are finally able to relax with a movie and some snacks. I’ll get back to those papers later.
11:15 p.m. — Or not. I’ll finish them tomorrow instead, along with my column, a trip to the park, and whatever else comes up, as so many things always do.
11:43 p.m. — In bed, stretched out, exhausted. The air conditioner whirs. When I close my eyes, I see the runners again, arms pumping, legs churning, bound for glory.