Once Upon A Field Day

My arms trembled as I struggled to keep my chin above the bar. Jaws clenched, I tightened my buttocks, my knees knocking together and lifted them toward my chest…as if that would keep me suspended above the bar.

“Chin up! Don’t let go! You can do it!” I could hear words of encouragement from Penny, the mom who took me to field day and supported me.

I hung for what seemed like forever, and when my arms gave out  my chin instantly slid below the bar and my feet hit the ground. It was sheer determination that enabled me to stand on those wobbly shaking legs. It was a good thing I’d already participated in the broad and triple jumps, but I still had the 50 yard dash ahead of me.

Though I was never a great athlete, I suppose one could say that I had potential for adventure. I enjoyed all the “tom boy” things in childhood like climbing trees, playing kickball, and riding motorcycles. Maybe it was those very experiences that helped me excel at “field day” and the “turkey trot”.

I generally placed in the top three of most events at my own school. I was never allowed to continue to compete at the combined field day until that year. My parents didn’t attend those sorts of things, but that year the mother of my friends, Mike and Sunny, offered to take me with them to compete.

I hardly slept the night before and was ready well before they arrived. It was about a thirty minute ride over a mountain to get to the other elementary school. Back then, we did not have to wear seat belts. Heck, Penny’s van didn’t even have seats except for the driver and front passenger seats. We started out sitting in the back on cushions. We slid off on the first curve. We bounced from side to side, rolled front to back, and at times clung to one another to remain upright. By the time we arrived, we were a bit light headed and sick to our stomachs.

Nothing like adding popcorn, cotton candy, coke, and hot dogs to a queasy tummy…mine must have been made with lead because it was all I imagined heaven to offer. I spent every last cent my parents gave me on junk food and games.

I felt so “worldly” being let loose to find my events, allowed to fend for myself, and trusted to show up at the van at the end of the day. Somehow Penny managed to find each of us at our scheduled events to cheer us on. Mike and I usually were rough and tumble with one another. Actually, he usually threw balls at me and pushed me around, but that day we palled around and had fun without my getting beat upon.

When the day was over, I had a rainbow of ribbons on my wrist. I placed a blue (first place) in the flex arm hang. I got second (red ribbon) for the triple jump and third (yellow ribbon) in the broad jumps. I only placed forth (green ribbon) in the dash. On the way home, we were too tired to even try to hold ourselves up in the van. We let the curves take us where they wanted. Mike and I physically butted heads a time or two, though we didn’t argue once that day.

Once I hit middle school, my sporting days were over. My mother insisted, “You don’t want your legs to look all muscular like a boy. Besides, girls need to be ladylike.” I still roamed the woods, ran along our property, and rode motorcycles with my cousins. I also had a female cousin my age who was quite the athlete. When we played ball, her brother always called me a sissy. He was trying to insult me (truth was that even I could throw better than he could!), but I liked being referred to as being feminine.

At school, I started pulling the dainty girl act. I always thought I did it because I knew my mother wouldn’t allow me to play sports and I’d have to explain that to the PE teachers who also coached the school teams. Now, I wonder if I did it more because I knew in going to a larger school, I no longer rated in the top three places of all events. Maybe, I just didn’t like losing.

I’m happy to know that the activities I enjoy now are no longer labeled by society as “sissy” or “tomboy”. I enjoy a wide variety of activities which include sewing, writing, and hiking. At least now, if they were labeled, I’d still choose to do them because I find them enjoyable. It’s nice to reach an age of comfort in life where I can choose to participate in the things that bring me joy. I’ve also learned that winning or losing is truly the least important aspect of most things I do. I’m finding the journey itself to be the best prize of all.

42 thoughts on “Once Upon A Field Day

  1. Awesome post. I was never athletic and pretty much hated field day after 4th grade. But I can identify the being away from your folks and given a taste of independence!!

    And yes, it is awesome to have reached a point in life where we can choose what we like without caring what anyone else’s perception of such activities is.


  2. All my ribbons are long gone now except the pins they gave me for history award and geography award in junior high. I looked in the awards catalogue and they cost 9 cents each. Cheap bums. They couldn’t give me a $2 plaque or something ? I suppose the glory is in the accomplishment not in the ribbon. I helped my granddaughter with the African American History Month poster. We did Ronald E McNair, the black astronaut that was killed along with crew when we lost the Challenger . We took 3rd place in the entire elementary school. I’d rather have that ribbon than all the ones I ever got.

    • I don’t have my field ribbons anymore, but I do still have my first place DAR essay medal. I was in 6th grade and wrote about George Washington, “the father of our country” and I wrote that he lived in the Mount Vernon Motel! And they published it in the hometown newspaper…I remember being quite offended hearing the adults in my family snicker over my writing motel…but seriously there was a motel nearby named the Mount Vernon so I thought it was one and the same.

  3. (truth was that even I could throw better than he could!)

    Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay, Suzi!

    You GO, girl!

    I found myself hooting and hollering; cheering you on!

    This post totally brought back memories of the times I was nominated for acting awards. Some I got, others I didn’t.

    And so true what you shared….

    “I’ve also learned that winning or losing is truly the least important aspect of most things I do. I’m finding the journey itself to be the best prize of all.’


    Have a terrific Thursday, my friend….X

    • My mom wouldn’t let my sister run track for the same reason….guess we’ll never know…thing was that our mom played softball and basketball all throough school and her legs were just fine!

  4. oh my, I used to win the chin up contest too. I can’t even imagine doing that now. My field days were over after I got in the 7th grade. But, I still have fond memories of having the “Turkey Trot” and the tumbling at my elementary school. Thanks for the look back this morning.

  5. My only “sport” was roller skating and I did that hour after hour after hour as a kid. I also climbed trees. Still, if the truth be told, I was never terribly coordinated so team sports were kind of out. I did play volleyball (badly) and a little tennis (badly as well). I was a better athletic supporter than I was athlete.

    • All of my older siblings roller skated…I didn’t for the first time until I was about 12, and never did it again until my kids were small. I found ice skating a little easier…I’m just not coordinated enough for it, or maybe I’m too fearful of falling.

  6. What a wonderful post, Suzi. Sharing your experiences brought back such a lovely lot of memories. I was stocky and a little short of breath, so the only field day sport I really excelled in were the short races. Like you, I usually placed first, second or third in those, but that was it.

    Where I did have a great time and managed at least not to make a fool of myself was in team sports…doubles badminton (my partner and I took the high school league championships), softball (I was a pretty good shortstop – this is where my weight came in hand, because I could knock the ball out of the park – our team won the regional trophy), and basketball (the only sport where I seriously injured myself by stopping so suddenly that the rest of my body kept going from the speed I had built up and ruptured necessary things in my ankle). Ahhhh, those were the good old days. Thanks for sharing 😀

    • I was never allowed to do the team sports except in PE class, and I would have loved being a part of a team. Oh, the good old days…wish I could still run like I used to!

    • I wish kids did not still suffer so much from peer pressure and felt free to participate in the activites they enjoy. It seems we have to grow up to accept having minds of our own.

    • Loved that and the balance beam! Mrs. Hayeck put together a balance beam team and wanted me on it, but I was not allowed. Funny that the older siblings got to do those things and we didn’t…guess they got to tired to cart us back and forth by then!

  7. i don’t like to lose either. going toward my natural temperament/hard-wiring, putting my efforts and all that hard work into what i am made for helps. unfortunately our schools don’t understand this as a general rule.

    • I was cheated in childhood – I never did the egg toss! I did the spoon race and the 3-legged, so maybe that’s enough…and no I wasn’t very good at them!

  8. I don’t even remember if there were field days at our school. I have never been competitive in sports and stuff. I don’t really care who wins or loses.

    I think it is awesome that you did all those things. And I think it is awesome now that you do so many things.


  9. Brings back memories of middle school on the one day of the year where we all had to subject oursleves to Presidents Physical Fitness test day. I never passed, because I couldn’t hang onto the chin up bar long enough. But you did it! Impressive…very impressive.

  10. I also think it’s important to do what YOU like and not what other people want you to like. And your description of riding in the van made me lough out loud because it suddenly reminded me that when I was in elementary school, I had a friend who’s parents also had a van with no backseats. We all just piled in there and we were jostled around all over the place lol.

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