My oldest daughter joined JROTC this year. Which means most Saturdays we sweat it out on high school campuses while she engages in all manner of obstacles.
Like tying a rope bridge strong enough to transport every member of her team from one side to the other. There they went, boosting and clipping one another onto the line, zipping from one side to the other. Her job is to untie the rope and run. They’re not done until she’s on the other side.
But she’s green and still learning. The competition was already tense–several teammates were out this weekend and she was a fill-in. A freshman hoping to make herself indispensable.
All went well for the first minute, but when she untied and ran, the rope jerked and refused. Wrapped around the pole, what should have been a quick release became a tangled mess. Her colonel shouted, her teammates called, and finally she figured out the instructions they were giving so she could fix the mistake.
But it cost them precious time.
As soon as the race was finished, I confess I expected to hear the colonel berate her for making such a blunder. My mama hackles were rising, prepared to do battle. She’d never practiced with this team. It’s her first big competition. She’s young. She’s here to learn. And once she learns, she won’t make the same mistake twice.
But instead, he set his hands on her shoulders. “Talk me through it,” he said. “From the beginning.”
She told him she pulled and her teammate clipped her to the rope.
“Where did you step? Left or right?”
She blinked. Gasped. “I went the wrong way.”
He said that yes, when she stepped to the wrong side, she wound the rope around the pole. “But it’s not your fault,” he explained. Her teammate should have clipped her when she stood in front of the pole, not behind. “See? If you trace it back to the beginning, you’ll find where you went wrong.”
Go back to the beginning.
The lesson has stayed with me over the last couple weeks, settling in and being reinforced by the words and actions of others. Go back. Start over. Trace your steps and remember. Learn.
So here I am. Back at the beginning where my writing began. On a little blog in a noisy world typing words while one daughter reads and one washes dishes and one folds laundry and the loud little boy drains the last of the hot water for his bath.
I’m planning to be here for the next 31 days. Because I need a reminder that my words have never been defined by sales numbers and book proposals. That there was a time I wrote words to remember, to be my alter, to help me understand.
So I’ll be here. Showing up. Fumbling language. Listening.
I hope you’ll let me know if you’re around here too.