this (encouraging) life
It is 8.45am and the sound of the phone ringing drags my husband and I out of bed. We had celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary with friends last night and had hoped to sleep in. Who could be ringing at this hour?
Our lovely daughter-in-law is on the other end of the line. I revert to grandparent mode: Is everything all right?
Everything is fine. “Could you come to Benedict’s cross-country race at 9.15am?” she asks.
Benedict is five years old. I agree. I’d hate to let him down.
I jump out of bed, drag on something acceptable and race to the scene. It is a beautiful, crisp day, and all the young mothers and some fathers, wait eagerly for the races to begin. I join them. We chat as the children limber up. It’s a perfect scene.
My thoughts begin to wander. With all these beautiful children, loving parents, dedicated teachers and events such as this replicated across the country, how could we not feel confident for the future? Surely with all the care embedded in our children, goodness will overcome the ugliness in our world?
But my reverie is short lived. There is a problem. I am on one side of the field with the barrackers, and Benedict is on the other. It’s a vast expanse.
Then it dawns on me that he won’t know I was here. I could be at home, laying in bed — he won’t know the difference. Something has to be done. The race begins with a flurry of tiny arms and legs. I need to get closer. No sooner have I gingerly stepped over a flagged barrier to move nearer the markers on the ground than a young teacher comes charging down the hill.
“Out of the way,” she yells, her little band of pint-sized warriors thundering behind her.
I stepped back just in time. “I must see him,” I think to myself. “I must let him know I am here.”
Confusion overcomes me as the little boys run past. Which one is he? Is that him? I think his hair is darker than that boy’s, but I take the plunge. “Benedict!” He hesitates, and turns his head towards me. “Go Benedict, go!” Mission accomplished. I slink back into the crowd. I head to the barricades and watch the other races. My friend’s granddaughter is running in the next event. Which one is she in this beautiful sea of blonde ponytails swinging into the far distance. We can‘t tell.
But there they go, running their little hearts out. Pushing themselves, smiling. No one gives up. Australia is in safe hands.