By Sarah Mansheim
Managing Editor • Mountain Messenger
My kids are awesome.
I don’t know where they get it. I have never met two more motivated and resilient people in my life. When I was a kid, my main motivation every day was to eat as many Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies as I could before “Magnum P.I.” was over. By middle school, my goal was to do as little as possible while still appearing to be busy and successful.
I believe that’s called “phoning it in.” I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years.
My kids, however, do not phone it in. Shoot, they arrive on the doorstep of any opportunity before the crack of dawn and set up camp. You tell them no? By golly, then they’ll just come back tomorrow and try again.
Seriously, who are these people?
Now, my children are also exceptionally good looking – at least I know they inherited something from me – and every year, my younger daughter is determined to win the Little Miss Autumnfest pageant at Frankford Elementary.
Last year, she lost handily. Not even an honorable mention, just a “Participant” ribbon and a fierce determination to do better this year. So, when the pageant came around again, she just knew she’d at least score a Runner-Up trophy. She practiced her walk. She practiced her twirl. She practiced her answers to the sample questions (“If I had any pet in the world, it would be a baby duck, because they are so cute, fluffy and cuddly.”)
Her daddy bought her a brand new red dress and I curled her hair into perfect ringlets and made up her face to a pretty darn near replica of Farrah Fawcet. She looked fantastic. In the competition, she was poised, polite, articulate and just absolutely gorgeous. And she lost. Not even Third-Runner-Up. Nothing. She began crying in the gymnasium before Little Miss Autumnfest even had her crown on.
I scooped her up as quickly as I could get to her and hustled her out the gym doors and into the school hallway, trying to gather up her feelings as best as I could. “I don’t understand,” she said through her tears, “I worked so hard, and I improved so much. I even clapped for every other girl.”
We washed her face in the bathroom sink with some cool water and she pulled herself together, steeling herself to face the crowd of her friends and family. By the time we got back to the gym, she was smiling. She congratulated the pageant winner, a friend of hers from class, and posed for a couple of photos.
When we got to the car, she said, “I’ve got two more years to win this thing. Next year, Mom, I’m getting a trophy.”
I died. Reader, if that had been me I’d never walk in a pageant again. Who am I kidding? I’d have never had the guts to be in the pageant in the first place.
The following Friday was the Frankford Elementary Mile Run, a race that she has participated in since kindergarten. As a third grader, she was going to be competing against kids in third, fourth and fifth grades, and she was nervous because the “older kids’ course” included a run up a fairly steep hill. So, she decided to train.
The school bus drops her off one mile from our lane, so either her grandparents or I have to pick her up in the car at the bus stop. The road between the bus stop and our house is one mile long – one half mile up hill and one half mile down. So, all week long, she got off the bus, put her backpack in her grandparents’ car, and ran home.
Her grandparents would trail behind her in the car, hazard lights flashing, as she ran up the hill. When she got tired she walked, and when she got her wind, she’d run. By the end of the week, she was ready to race.
On Friday, a light rain was falling, but school officials held the race outside anyway. She joined her classmates at the starting line, and upon the drop of the flag, began her run. Her grandparents were there to cheer her on, and her grandma told me later, “all these kids started crossing the finish line, and before I knew it, there she was.” Upon finishing, she joined the other finishers to cheer on the kids who were still racing.
She came in 16th overall, running against boys and girls in the third, fourth and fifth grade. And next year, she says, she hopes to be in the Top 10. Hopefully she will, and maybe, just maybe, she’ll be wearing a tiara when she does. But even if she doesn’t, there she’ll be: my Mary Lou Retton, my Jackie Joyner Kersee, my Miss America, ready to try it again next year.