Every May, a couple of weeks before school got out, our kids’ school held Field Day. A real field day with medals and podiums and winners and losers. It was held down on the lower field. Sixth grades were the field day captains, psych videos were made, smack talk was exchanged. Two tiki torches, flame and all, were raced through the school as the national anthem boomed.
Every year, the competition was real. Younger kids raced with potatoes balancing precariously on wooden spoons and tossed water balloons back and forth, crushed when theirs exploded all over them. The older kids ran their hearts out in the 50 yard dash competing for bragging rights as the fastest kid in school while others ran the 50. Later in the day, what was thought by many to be the toughest even, the trash can dig, was run. Fifth and sixth graders ran 50 yards down the field, then dove head first into trash cans filled with water and shaving cream to dig out golf balls off of the bottom, racing 50 yards back to the finish line. It was, for many, the best day of the year.
After all the events were run and points were tallied, the final showdown took place on what was usually a blazing hot afternoon. Six teams, anywhere from 20 to 30 kids per team, competing in an old school tug of war. Tug of war counted for enough points that, as my youngest daughter found out one year, your team could go into it ahead on points, but still fall short of the coming in first place. It was two years ago, but we still talk about that tug of war. “It made me a little mad that I got all the points and my team still didn’t win. The was the first time my team ever lost tug of war,” my now 11-year-old reminiscences somewhat longingly and annoyed all at the same time.
It took me a couple of years of field days to realize that not every family loved field day as much as mine. I kept running into the parent of a fourth grader in my daughter’s class and she looked nervous before every event. Right before the third event, she blurted out, “Oh I hope she wins! She’s never won a medal.” She didn’t end up winning an individual event that year, but her team pulled out a win and she happily hung a gold medal around her neck.
Our kids changed schools before our youngest was in sixth grade. Yet field day lives on in regular conversations at our house. Two years later, she still talks about running the torch and laments about the only time her team lost tug of war. That’s determination.