At the start of the Olympics- the 30th- I reflected on a few of my thirty years of memories...
I missed the London opening. I meant to at least watch part of it, but I have to contend with my own little champion- one year old Zoe. She's just begun walking, and there is sheer joy on her little face as she takes small but quick steps on our tan carpet.
The news stories talk how this is finally the games where women are representing.
As my husband, Keiron, walks in from his second job, to his two ladies, I'm sure he has learned firsthand the power we girls have.
Zoe steps carefully in the direction of her father, as if there is an invisible balance beam underfoot. She stumbles, landing on her diapered bottom, quickly changing positions and taking off in a speed-crawl.
Keiron drops his bags, and lowers himself until he is eye to eye with Zoe.
I'm sitting in front of my best friend Giddel's cool flat screen TV along with her, her husband, David, and my fiance, Keiron. Their son 2 year old son Beniaih is running in circles behind us. We're all impressed by the grand fireworks display.
I look at Keiron. He is so handsome. Our relationship was such a surprise. We had met a few years before, but remained comfortably in the friend zone until June. We had our first date, and I didn't want him to leave me. Ever. At the end of the night, in the front of my building, he picked me up and spun me around with such force, my feet left the ground.
There in my friends' rented townhouse basement, I am still floating.
Talk about fireworks.
The Olympics are in Greece, their birthplace, supposedly.
I miss most of the games in a swirl of part time jobs. I graduated college in May. I thought I'd be making my own victory lap, smiling brightly. Or maybe a defiant fist pump like back in the '68 games, a quiet sign of personal progress. There was none of that. Just exhaustion.
I walk up the stairs of my childhood home, stuck the key in the lock and turn. Mommy is sittng on the couch.
"Hi, Baby! How was your day?"
"It's just another day, Ma." I drop my Old Navy purse on the side of the couch and sit down next to her. And then, changing my mind, I lay my head on her lap and ball up like a little kid. She laughs.
"Li Li, you'll always be my baby."
A very happy and surprised Joscelyne on her 16th birthday.
"I really want to go to Australia, Li," Candace, one of my besties says as we plunk down on my bed.
"Watching the coverage of the games, now I want to go, too. Sydney looks beautiful. You know, a girl I know from one of my classes is going to do a semester abroad over there in the spring," I say.
"Lucky," Candace replies. She's checking herself out in the mirror now, having slid into a new tan, khaki skirt. We both fell in love with it, so we both purchased one.
"I'm going to travel the world one day. London, Paris, South Africa...". She talks and changes at the same time. I'm still on the bed, next to my stuffed animals and favorite doll since I was eight.
I want to go, too, but... how can I go? Leaving Mom and my sister, Joscelyne...
Just then, Joscelyne barges through the door. "You guys went shopping? Why didn't you bring me? You know, it is my birthday week."
I roll my eyes. "Everyone gets a day, but you need a week."
"Of course," she says with all seriousness. I check my watch. We have to head to Dad's house now. The little brat doesn't know it, but our stepmother has a surprised sixteenth birthday party planned for her. Our friends and cousins are already there. I get up.
"Let's go," I say as I glance at Can-Can knowingly. We head down the stairs, and the three of us stop to say goodbye to my mom with a kiss. We walk out the front door.
Leave for Australia? No way. I can't leave Mom that long. It hurts leaving her for Dad's for just an afternoon.
A bombing at the Olympics. Bad things had happened at past games, but that was in the 70's. What is going on in the world?
I read about the terrorist attack the next morning in the paper. I read the paper daily, a ritual begun at 8. It's hot, so my hands sweat and the paper ink is turning my fingers black.
I get up and wash my hands. Mom is in the kitchen. Mopping. She lives in that kitchen.Since Dad moved out in March, she seems to spend 90% of her time in there. Sweeping, cooking and washing dishes.
Jos is still asleep. My brother Joe is, too.
I wipe the sweat from my forehead. It's too hot already.
I go back to the living room and flip on the TV. The reporters are talking of the shock of the bombing, but how the games will go on.
I wonder what Dad is doing. I hate not knowing. I can call, but...
Life goes on.
Jos helps me cut the rectangles for the flags. Japan, Canada, Itlay, France. We color feverishly. We are on a mission to get those flags done and taped to our bedroom wall. Our Barbies will be taking center stage at the first annual Flemming Summer Olympics. Then we will head out to the backyard to compete ourselves.
The real games are in Spain. I have to make sure not to forget the Spanish flag.
"I wish I could take gymnastics classes. I don't know why Daddy always says, 'No'" I am also done with China.
"Cause he's cheap! Duh!," Joe says, walking into our room to look at our work. "This is pretty good."
"Thanks. Can you hang those flags up by the ceiling?"
"Yeah, sure, " he says, his 14 year old self much taller than us.
"I'd be really good, though. I'm the right height and everything, " I say, going back to the topic of gymnastics. "Eliza has been taking it for years and she can do backflips and the balance beam and cartwheels..."
"Li, it ain't gonna happen. It's piano lessons or nothing."
"I'd rather have nothing."
"It's not really up to you anyway. I'm done. You got anymore?" I don't really hear him. I want to be Dominique Dawes. I have to be her.
"Look, I'll show you how to do a cartwheel. Everyone should know how to do a cartwheel."
I smile. "Yes! Let's go!" I jump up and follow him. Jos suddenly realizes she's about to get left behind.
"Me, too, me, too!" She runs behind us, nearly tripping down the stairs and out the door.
Daddy and Jo Jo are watching the games. Jo Jo says they are the best athletes in the world. These games are only held every four years.
I sit by Daddy's feet next to Jos. Mommy comes in from the kitchen and sits next to him.
"Flo-Jo," Daddy says, "is bad. That is one strong woman!" Jos is confused. "Why is she bad?" she asks.
I know this. "No, she's not really bad. She's really cool." Jos still looks confused. She is such a baby.
"Like Michael Jackson! She's 'bad'!"
"Oh," she says, but I can tell, she isn't getting it. I inch closer to her and hug her. She has so much to learn.
I'll teach her.
My mom and Jos
I'm two. I have no idea the Olympics are being held in Los Angeles. No clue the Cold War drama is mixing with the games causing boycotts. I don't even know what the Olympics are.
I do know I have a new baby sister. Born August 6th.
And as soon as Daddy picks us up from Nana's, I'll meet her.
Happy 28th Birthday, Joscelyne.