“I've been invited!” The Champ announced as he got off the bus. He descended cautiously, bending halfway at the waist to counterbalance his enormous backpack -- filled, no doubt, with half of the contents of his toy box.
His winter jacket was slung over one arm. It was March, and freezing, and he was in shirtsleeves.
“They're SHORTsleeves,” he corrected when I over-acted my exacerbation as we sprint toward the house.
The afternoon greeting as he returns from school has been our winter ritual.
He pretends the air is boiling and threatens to strip down to his “shortsleeved pants” and go “sunbabing” on the front lawn.
I tell him “Try it, buster, and the neighbors will run us out of town.”
But he doesn't want to banter on this day.
He runs inside the house, tosses his coat, kicks off his boots and extracts items from his backpack hand-over-hand, littering the entryway floor until he finds his prize.
He holds the paper in his closed fist like a bouquet of flowers and waves it at me.
It looks smudged and sticky.
“I've been invited to a very special club. It's super-duper special, and only ALL the kids in my school will be there. Maybe. I don't know if the two Sarahs will come, but they might. Here. Read it. What does it say?”
I un-crumple the sweaty handout (it IS smudged and sticky) and fall silent as I scan the text, weighing the chances that he's testing me.
Does he already know the gist or can I lie and tell him it's an invitation to the newly formed Just Wear Your Coat Club? Not to be confused with the Eat Your Vegetables Club he wouldn't join if it paid him.
“Come on! What does it say,” he begged, jabbing at the running stick figure in the header with a crumb-encrusted pencil grip he fished from the dark recesses of his school bag.
“It's a running club. You've been invited to join a running club!”
His eyes shine like the high beams of a pickup truck. I am the deer frozen in the light.
He knows what I'm holding, he just doesn't know the specifics.
“I'm going to do it. And so are you, and dad and maybe even my sister. Can we bring the dog, too?
Read. It. Pulllleeeeze?”
“Oh, OK: freespingrunningclinicforkidsandadultseverywednesdaynightrainorshineorhailingthunderstormstheend.
“Sounds horrible, doesn't it?”
“Nope. It sounds like the most fun in the whole wide world. We have to do it. …And YOU,” he narrowed his eyes, “have to do it with me.”
How could I say no?
How could I say “No” to setting a good example for my kids?
How could I say “No” to the benefits of going out into the world and getting into shape?
How could I say “No” to eight weeks of couch-to-5K goodness?
“No, really? How?” I asked my husband. “Where will I put my coffee cup as I run? Running clothes don't have built-in cup holders.”
He just grinned his no-good, low-down accomplice -y grin.
The Champ knew he'd won. Probably from the moment he stepped off that bus.
“I suppose there's more than one way to run us out of town. … At least this way, we take the neighbors with us.”