Found was a needle in a haystack I wasn’t even looking for.
An unearthed treasure discovered from a box whose bottom dropped out as I was moving it in frustration thru a crowded storage unit to gain access to another.
A time capsule of old worn out video clips whose quality had faded and diminished during its burial among fluctuating temperatures, yet this digital scrapbook documenting the miles of memories of a cross country team our son ran with, would find a crowd of parents and team members seated at a front row seat to the premiere re-showing of their life from almost twenty-four years ago, albeit through the scratchy lens of an eight millimeter movie without sound.
Cast in the movie yet not visible on screen is their cross country coach and leader of their miles of memories.
Known to most of the team as Mr. Hattabaugh or Mr. H. to others; but all agreed they loved him most as coach.
Providing a never ending supply of Gatorade and heart for those who put in their miles of his Do Run Run Club, this coach could be seen running in the rear with the new kids on the team to encourage them to the finish line of their days training; then icing his aging knees and hips in private when the others were outdoors jumping on the trampoline.
Once the school bell rang and a meet wasn’t scheduled, the route through the country roads of the team’s practice had them passing by our house and waving at this mother who smiled and returned the gesture through the open view of them through her kitchen windows.
Occasionally a few of the runners would break from the pack for a cold drink of freshly pumped water from the well, or a homemade blueberry muffin I usually had on hand for those unexpected visits of those high school boys I couldn’t resist.
With runners dressed in the school colors of green and orange on race day, spectators of moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and even principals at times held nothing back when cheering for their own.
There were picture takers, sign holders, video recorders, obnoxiously loud cheerleaders (like myself), pain to the ears cow bell ringers, and horn blowers of all kinds; whatever it took to see your teammates cross the finish line first.
Just like that, the race is over.
Yes, every race in life has a finish line.
Cross country seasons have a finish line until the following year.
High School seniors also have a finish line to cross over into college, the military or a job in the market place.
Catching our senior runners and remaining teammates celebrating and retrieving their cars in the parking lot for their final day of school had me holding back a few tears and wanting them desperately back at the starting line of high school.
Celebrating his 70th birthday party he threw for himself, the coach is gathered around a few of those runners he trained on the cross country field.
The team’s love for the coach was still evident from the handprint he left on their lives from twenty-four years ago.
The same could be said for those runners unable to attend.
That first cross country season after every remaining runner graduated to the next race of their life, the silence of our house without the invasion of high school boys was deafening.
My husband and I longed for the team to wave at us parents watching them with jubilant smiles as they passed by our kitchen window those years of fall afternoons.
Sadly, I stopped having blueberry muffins on hand for those unexpected visits of runners.
We said good-by with heavy hearts to the house we raised our children in.
We eventually moved from that old country town we loved dearly; but the beautiful remembrances remain.
We celebrate the coach who attended each team member’s high school graduation open house.
We honor the sacrifice for the coach and his family to drive six hours away for our son’s long distant wedding nuptials.
We can’t thank Mr. H. enough for never forgetting those who loved him as coach.
Yes, when the coach gave the team their miles of memories,
He also gave me mine.