The Three Monuments

The Three Monuments

~Yaroslavl, capital of the Golden Ring of Russia and the oldest of the Volga towns, was founded in 1010 by Yaroslav the Wise, a prince of Kievan Rus.  Legend has it that Yaroslav went North and found a friendly spot by the Volga on which he would built a city.  A bear came out of the woods and charged at him. Yaroslav killed the bear with an ax. Almost a decade later, he became the Grand Duke of Kiev. He ruled wisely and well, despite his one known act of cruelty to bears.  He built the famous Cathedral of St. Sophia (which houses his tomb and the incredible fresco portraits of his family) and the Golden Gate of Kiev (cue Musorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”), and established the first Russian law code, Russian Justice.  Still, the town on the  Volga is his greatest achievement.  Memory eternal!

Yaroslavl on top, bear on bottom. But notice who is holding the ax…

In Yaroslavl, time did not quite stand still, in terms of keeping up with internet and other modern conveniences, such as resplendently stocked grocery store shelves.  However, the general character and look of the town did not change.  One very comforting feature is the profound lack of attention to the destruction of the relics of the past—whether the long past, or *our* past.  Just as the name of the town never changed during the Communist era, but continued to evoke the long ago Grand Duke of Kiev who famously conquered a bear with his ax, so did the Lenin and October Prospects remain thusly named in the Yaroslavl of the Russian Federation.  And just as the 17th century churches were not detonated during the three quarters of the 20th century that comprised the entire history of the now defunct country of my birth, but merely consigned to store potatoes, so do the imposing monuments of that country remain as the scattered guideposts of the city today.  There are two Lenins; there always were the two Lenins.  One is standing on the Red Square (many Russian towns have a Red Square) and with his upraised arm shows the way to our bright future.  Meet you *by the arm*. 

By the arm

The other one is sitting and writing in his notebook upon a crossed knee, facing his namesake Prospect, with his back to Mother Volga, with the Soviet Street crossing in front of him.  I remember laying flowers at the base of this sculpture, as it was conveniently located near my school.  Kids were sworn into the Young Pioneers next to this Lenin every year on his birthday on April 22.  Meet you *by the leg*. 

By the leg

And then there is Karl Marx, my favorite monument ever.  I am emotionally attached to it because I remember when it was unveiled.  The year was 1972, if memory serves, and we were going to spend the summer “za Volgoi”, literally “beyond the Volga”, or simply, on the other bank of the Volga.  On the other bank is the countryside, and when I was really small, my grandmother rented a room in a hut in a village called Yakovlevskoye (Jacob’s).  Actually, we had two landladies, one after another, but this is so long ago that I barely remember the first one, Olga something or other. To be fair, I was 2 or 3 years old.  I remember only a very high bed with lace pillowcases, and trying to drown Vanechka, a doll to which I have taken a dislike, in my potty.  My grandmother seemed to have persisted that the doll’s demise was meant to be an accident, but I, in turn, persisted in trying to destroy it.  I do not recall who finally won, but, experience would suggest—not I.   

The second landlady was Anna Loginovna, and I can still see her low ceilinged house with the traditional wood burning stove, and our room with pictures of ladies from the fashion magazines tacked to the walls.  Anna Loginovna’s daughter died tragically during one of the summers we were living with her, when a drunk truck driver plowed through a window of a store in which she was shopping. I remember seeing photos of her in a coffin, stitches on her face, and her orphaned children, a girl and a boy older than me, maybe a teenager and a preteen, sitting forlornly at their grandma’s rough wooden table.  I do not recall, if I ever knew, if Anna Loginovna had other children, or what happened to the two kids, who ultimately took responsibility for them.  But I remember sitting at that table, in that house, almost half a century ago.  But I digress…

We were traveling to beyond the Volga in a bus, the #50.  I was looking out the window, and saw a dreadful and fearsome sight of a block of gray marble with a burlap sack at the top at the intersection of Lenin and October Prospects.  I did not know it then, and had no basis for comparison, but if I extract this memory now, I would compare it to a prisoner about to be beheaded.  The sight so alarmed me that I never forgot it.  Someone (logically, the responsibility would have fallen to my grandmother) explained to me that it is a new monument which will be shortly unveiled.  The ceremony happened during our summer sojourn on the other bank of the Volga.  I was immensely relieved to see that the bag was off his head and it was now an imposing gray torso with a familiar bearded head on what became (or maybe already was) Karl Marx Square.  The clemency shown to the prisoner made me feel proprietary and affectionate toward him.  Meet you *by the beard*.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_5430.jpg
By the beard


I did not really make acquaintance with English-language music almost until after high school.  I was not only entirely uncool, but had no real pop culture influence.  My mom does not listen to music except when attending concerts of the classics—one of the trademarks of good breeding in our culture.  Although of the Baby Boomer generation, not having grown up in the US made her completely unable to pass on any retro musical heritage to me.  The only records in our home were mine.

In the way of awkward teenage communication, I could never figure out how to seek guidance from peers.  I mean, when one is fourteen, one does not simply say, hey, to what music should I listen so that I am not an outcast?  Of course, pop music then was not as easily accessible—records cost money.  In high school, I had no money.  I did somehow manage to procure the following: (1) Billy Joel’s “Innocent Man”—because I saw “Uptown Girl” on Friday Night Videos and liked the catchy tune; (2) Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health”—because a boy on whom I had a crush seemed to be into it, and (3) Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”—because it was all the rage, and made me feel quite with it and in the know.

Around my high school graduation time, The Monkees made their decennial revival—the show, of course, which immediately reminded me of my beloved Marx Brothers.  I thought I made such a profound connection—turns out, John Lennon said it first.    Through them, I discovered other 60s music (technically, the music of my parents generation, even if they remained oblivious).  And then came Elton John.

In typical college drama fashion, the lousy boyfriend du jour (the same one from the “Arc de Triomphe” post—he was just a remarkably bad boyfriend!) stood me up on Valentine’s Day.  A friend came over to cheer me up, with leftover filet mignon from a dinner with her boyfriend (who turned out to be not much better than mine, if somewhat more attentive), a couple of bracelets from her own collection, and the music of Elton John.  She is still a friend, albeit a geographically removed on.  She was, and is, fabulous, beautiful, self-assured, stylish.  She might have been the only friend I ever had who actively influenced my musical taste.  It does not seem likely now that she came with the sounds of music on that occasion, but in my flawed memory, that Valentine’s Day is conflated with the day I first heard “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road”.

It is still my absolutely most favorite song of all time—even though I have misheard the lyrics for all these years.  I am not entirely sure I ever knew exactly what they were until I just looked them up now!  “Horny back toad”—really, those are the words in this song?  I just like “It’ll take you a couple of vodka and tonics to set you on your feet again”.  True then, true now.  Although I do not believe I ever had vodka and tonic together. I have had more than my share of vodka over the years, and quite a bit of tonic, but never together.  Still, it’s the sentiment that counts.  And I have to this day the “favorite breakup songs” playlist on my iPod.  Do people still have iPods?  It used to be a tape, then a CD, so I count myself as quite technologically advanced!  “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is always opening that party.

When I got married, my thoughtful husband suggested an Elton John song for our first dance as the wedding reception.  The problem was, all my favorite songs of his were either sad or inappropriate (“The Bitch is Back”?  That would have pleased my in-laws, at least…)  “Your Song” was a natural choice.  My eyes are not green nor blue, neither are his, but we made it work.

And now they made a movie about Elton’s life and music. Well, not they—he.  He made it.  He loves it.  I love it.  I was wary of it at first, because I expected another “Bohemian Rhapsody”—a strangely sanitized account of a vaguely unhappy but tremendously successful musical genius who had indulging and supportive family and friends (especially Brian May—I want to be friends with Brian May, he is clearly just The Friend of Friends!), made the crowds go wild at Live Aid, and then discreetly died of AIDS.  The music was awesome, but the rest was ambiguous.  And the lead actor constantly licking his prosthetic teeth was downright distracting.

Not so with “Rocketman”.  Elton’s unhappiness despite success is very clear—and dare I say, justified?  His parents are shown as just awful, cold and critical throughout.  I do know that such parents exist, of this I have no doubt.  My sons and I argued who was worse, his father or his mother, but does it really matter?  Elton’s tremendous and destructive insecurities seem to have been rooted in their lack of love.  As one of his songs goes “mama don’t want you, daddy don’t want you”.  Add to that an equally unpleasant and downright abusive manager/lover, and voilá– “sad songs say so much”. 

It would all not be so impressive without (1) the wonderful music of Elton John and the way it is inserted to advance the plot (I can’t wait for this story to be made into a Broadway or West End musical!) and (2) the unexpectedly (at least for me) potent and poignant performance by Taron Egerton.  That kid from “Kingsman” really sings!  And he really acts!  And he really looks incredibly much like Elton—the wonders of theatrical makeup never cease to amaze me.  I could not picture this transformation until I actually saw it on screen.  Although I must note, Bernie Taupin was never as handsome as the kid from “Billy Elliott” all grown up.

The reason that “Rocketman” is so powerful is rooted in the simple fact that, despite all the extraordinary accomplishments, love is a basic need, and without it we are nothing.  We, as humans, joke that if money cannot buy love, it can buy other things that are just as good.  But I do know that those of us who say this come from a position of “love privilege”. We are not lacking in affection in our lives, so can look to that next stage in the hierarchy of emotional needs.  Even that cranky old St. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous treatise on love.  Elton John’s life seems to have embodied the 2nd verse of that chapter, “If I have the gift of [we have to insert music and riches and anything else that comes to mind], but do not have love, I am nothing”.  And so I walked away from the movie not irritated by the plight of a sad rich musician but touched by the tragedy of a man is craves acceptance and affection from all the wrong people, those who are fundamentally incapable of giving it, and finally, happy for Elton that he found his happily ever after.  My son pulled out an album of Elton John’s greatest hits which I recognized as pilfered from my own old record collection (plus ça change…), and all was well with the world.

The Patriot Game

When I was a young girl, Ireland was not on my list of “places I could only visit in my wildest dreams” (or in another lifetime).  So, when another lifetime arrived, I was not even mildly interested.  And who knows why?  Maybe it is just not a place that influenced my culture.  For some centuries, my people looked to Paris—the literature, the music, the films, and, aside from that brazen Corsican conqueror, the history.  Of course, we have forgiven the French after La Grande Armée was soundly defeated by the grander Russian winter.

In the ‘80s, as a Poli Sci college major, Ireland first burst on the scene of my life through a World Politics class.  I was so spectacularly ignorant of the land’s history, demographics, and political structure (and, in fairness, the professor was terrible), that it came as a bit of a surprise to me that the island is divided, in every possible way but geographically.  In that Dark Decade, The Troubles were someone else’s.  Car bombingswere often in the news, the IRA was a terrifying specter of terrorism, and Sinn Féin seemed scarier than the Nazi Party.  Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers were already dead, and “The Crying Game” was not yet made.  In my mind, Ireland was a lawless, scary place, Belfast was Beirut, and no one in their right mind would go there.  This is how well they taught us in college—or how well I paid attention:  I figured that the entire country was a mess, with Belfast at the center of the steaming rubble.  It kind of sort of did not make sense to me that the island was partitioned and Ulster belonged to Great Britain.  It still totally does not make any sense—the 18 year old me was right on the money!

Quite obviously, I have no Irish roots.  But, many Americans do, and I have a “real American” (as my relatives initially referred to him) spouse.  At some point in our European travels, he started lobbying for an Ireland trip.  When the previous decade’s Big Birthday was coming up, it was his fervent wish.  This is how much I thought of Ireland:  we went to Greece.  (Don’t feel bad for him, he loved it.  Greece is great!  And we did eventually make it to Ireland.)

In the spring of last year, I had an opportunity to go to Dublin for work.  (Yes, there are occasional flashes of brilliance in this job…)  The week following my business trip, “Chess” was starting a very limited engagement with the English National Opera at the London Palladium.  Nigel Havers was touring England with “Art”, one of the best modern plays. And the original “Les Miz” was still at the Queen’s Theatre (sadly, no more, as of the date of this writing, replaced by the 25th anniversary abomination).  So, Dublin, then London, but I had the weekend in between at my disposal. 

In my lifetime, so many “enemies” changed.  As scary as the IRA was in the ‘80s and ‘90s (I know the 70s were even scarier, but not on my personal radar), 9/11 changed all that.  And then it came to me, for reasons passing understanding—Belfast.  I will go to Belfast for a couple of days, just to say I went.  It might be a terrible depressing place, but just the fact that The Troubles are over and I have the opportunity to visit—well, never could I imagine such a thing a couple or three decades before.  I mean, BELFAST!

Belfast at night

Words cannot do it justice.  Maybe more accurately, *my* words cannot do it justice, because I am simply not skillful enough in describing how this entirely foreign, previously unknown town of sorrow and rebellion got under my skin and into my heart.  I finally not only understood, but felt the history of these people, NOT my people, NOT my religion (on either side, really), yet still deeply moving and traumatic.  I sobbed throughout my visit—the walls surrounding the Catholic enclaves, the murals (oh, those murals!) depicting their struggles for self-determination and the right to join their ethnic brothers and sisters in the Republic, the room in the City Hall with quotes from the families of the disappeared and the murdered… 

City Hall

Dublin is like the continental South—joyful, friendly, party town.  There are some dark moments there, of course, and memories of the Empire’s oppression are alive and well.  But Dublin is a capital of its own country and people.  The Republic is still a comparatively new political entity, of course, but these days, it is a fabulous country with a rich heritage, and God bless it!

The Salmon of Knowledge

Belfast is a Northern city, beautiful but sad, the Empire not a distant memory but a giant wing over the skyline, the memories fresh in their defiance despite the recent reconciliation, the specter of the martyrs ever-present, the separation of religions still a reality, the most bombed street in Europe (not in Stalingrad, not in Dresden) eerie in its quiet, the very ground almost unsteady with the winds of unrest of those few recent decades. 

And what about the IRA, heroes or villains?  Hard for me to say now, after walking through Belfast.  The violence is suppressed, but it all just feels unfair, even to this semi-detached outsider.  In the immortal words of Rodney King, “Can we all just get along”?  It hurt my heart to think of what happened in that city and in that lovely land just a short time ago.  I left a little bit in love with Belfast, and over the past year, I have been aching to return.  It touched me in a way few other places have over the years.  It’s almost as if I find its troubled past enticing.  It’s almost as if I want to go back and be reassured that it continues to thrive.  And, as we say back in the Old Country, what is not a joke to the devil—might we see a United Ireland yet this side of paradise?

When Did the Arc de Triomphe Start Leaning?

In this lifetime, my relationship with Paris evolved and improved quite significantly.  I first spent a summer there as a student after my sophomore year of college.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Dickens does not mention anything about lack of funds and lousy boyfriends, but that was an overriding influence of my Parisian summer.  Because 19 year old girls are inherently stupid in love (don’t argue, I know this!), spending three months with a total wastrel seemed somehow preferable to spending them without him, albeit in the City of Lights.  If I could travel back in time to slap the silliness out of the 19 year old me, I would absolutely do it—and the Butterfly Effect be damned. 

Another reason Paris was less fabulous the first time around was because I was poor.  New York, Rome, Paris, they are incredible cities under the worst of circumstances, but the best of circumstances are better.  And so, living in a boarding house with a shared bathroom in the Latin Quarter and not being able to afford even an occasional restaurant meal is a slight bit of a bummer.  I am a Right Bank girl at heart.  On all my subsequent trips to Paris, I made a point to only cross the Seine for sightseeing purposes.  C’est la vie.

Still, it was an amazing summer, because studying French language and cinema at the source of it all, at 19, with a group of new friends (some of whom are now old friends) was an experience of a lifetime. 

There have been several trips since that glorious, sunlit summer, and in various configurations (BFF and I; mom, grandma and I; spouse and I; spouse, younger son, BFF and her daughter and I, etc.)  In March of 2018, my mom and I made the pilgrimage.  It was our Second Annual Girls Trip. I had a purpose; she tagged along.  It was also my Big Birthday Year—we started celebrating months in advance.

It had to be March because Salvatore Adamo was giving a concert at the Olympia.  Salvatore Adamo at the Olympia, let that sink in!  It would be my second time seeing him live.  The first was several years earlier, at the Bataclan—we actually sat in those chairs that I would later see on TV and photo images, scattered on the ground after the horrific terrorist attack…  And now, Adamo, one of the fondest musical memories of my childhood, the iconic venue, my now beloved Paris, and my fiftieth year—the perfect combination if ever there was one.  I knew there was only one PIC* worthy of this type of shenanigan—my mom!

The topic of “MY MOM” can (and might) take up volumes.  But not today.  Today I will only say that she is a woman always ready for an adventure, which is a marvelous quality to possess when one is a parental unit of #oldladytraveling. She has the motive, method, and opportunity—in other words, the desire to travel (especially with her only child), the means to afford it, and a seemingly limitless supply of vacation days despite still being employed on a full-time basis. Eh voila, I offered, she accepted, we went.

I am a recovering Obsessive Overplanner. As of this writing, I do not have a single vacation planned for next year, and it’s already June.  The Paris trip, however, pretty much planned itself.  I bought the concert tickets, and proceeded to work in concentric circles from the epicenter that was Olympia.  The hotel had to be close to both the Olympia and the Opera, where the airport bus would drop us off, the Olympia and the Opera are already close to each other, and the Fragonard Museum of Perfume was determined to also be nearby.  And the rest, as they say, would be gravy.

Because this is decidedly not a travelogue, and because I leave scrapbooking to my mom, I will only mention the *firsts* that happened on this trip:

  1. The first time I actually bought perfume in Paris:  Yes, yes, I know, France is the motherland of perfume, and I do love and wear it (occasionally to excess), but I have never actually bought it there.  I mean, these days everything is available everywhere, and dollars are cheaper than euros.  Except Fragonard—it is not being exported to the US.  So we went to the Fragonard Museum of Perfume, learned a lot about the history and the process (all facts which I promptly forgot and cannot now recall a single one), and bought several bottles of scents with tremendous joy and glee.  This is truly an experience that can only be shared with another girl!
  2. The first time I rode in a cab in Paris: I mean, not to/from an airport, but just because.  And the “because” of it was that we were overserved champagne at some café on the Champs-Élysées—what better reason could there be?  On our first day, we walked along looking for food, were beckoned in by a friendly waiter named Pierre, and proceeded to have a raucous repast consisting primarily of various bubbly beverages and cheese. I am a ridiculous human being who will always walk when she can, take public transportation when she cannot, and only resort to cabs when there is literally no other option.  My mom felt there was no other option. She might not have been wrong.  I have to report that taxis in Paris are really no different than taxis the world over.  Enough said.

3. The first time I visited the Musée des Arts et Métiers:  Paris is full of museums, and every time I delude myself into thinking I have visited them all, or at least all the major ones, a new one springs up like a mushroom right in front of me!  My mom and I were wandering around, looking for covered shopping passages, feeling very hip and urban and deservedly European when we stopped for another obligatory kir and pâté at a café right across from this heretofore undiscovered gem.  Thus fortified, we entered and enjoyed many scientific curiosities, tools that mom recalled from her engineering training, music boxes, and other fun stuff.  Highly recommended!

4. The first time I visited Opéra Garnier:  As centrally located as it is, and as much of a Right Bank girl as I am, I have never been inside until that trip.  I decided that time has finally come to visit the Phantom’s old stomping grounds.  They do tours in English, and we signed up for an evening one, during which you not only explore the opulent stairwells and halls, but get to sit in *his* box.  It is exactly as I imagined—a gorgeous, luxurious, sparkling, and absolutely quintessentially French palace.  The Phantom was right in demanding only the highest standard of quality for the prima donnas to grace this magnificent stage, and if he had to smash chandeliers to achieve it, more power to him!

5. The first time I attended Theatre in Paris:  No, not theatre in Paris, but Theatre in Paris.  During our exploring of the area near Olympia, mom and I wandered into quaint little enclosed square with an imposing equestrian figure of what I, in a moment of unexpected lucidity, perceived to be an English king (well, it is just a parlor trick, isn’t it—his appearance was of a era significantly later than the end of French monarchy). It was, indeed, the visage of Edward II, the “most Parisian of all Kings”, and there was a theatre in the square as well–Théâtre Édouard VII**. My mom, who speaks not a word of French beyond what the general populace does (that is to say, a word of greeting, thanks, and farewell, if that), became immediately excited and said that she wants to see a play just for the experience, the understanding of the dialogue being a bonus she had no right to expect.  I dimly recalled some new-ish initiative of subtitling French plays for the English-speaking audience.  Thank you, the gods of Internet!  Not only did I confirm this, but we ordered tickets to a show, which provides an English language program and makes sure your seats have a good visibility of the subtitles scrolling at the top of the stage.  What a great deal!  The play we saw was “Somewhere in the Life”, adapted from “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard” by Israel Horovitz.  It was quite wonderful, one of those talky, relationship plays with two actors.  Maybe because it was a translation and an adaptation from English, I felt that I could understand about 60-70% without subtitles. Or maybe my French is that awesome.  Yes, definitely the latter.

6. Honorable mention goes to the first time I ate caviar in Paris—because wherever my mom is, there it is.  You can take a woman out of Russia, but…

And this was our Parisian adventure and Second Annual Mother and Daughter trip.  If you are mildly curious about the First, as well as subsequent, annual trips—stay tuned!

*PIC – [in this context] Partner in Crime

**“In the early to mid 1900s,under the direction of Sacha Guitry, the theatre became a symbol of anglo-franco friendship, and where French people could discover and enjoy Anglo Saxon works”.  (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Run Your Own Race

I have had a strange quasi-vicarious relationship with running since 1980.  It terrified yet attracted me.  I heard stories from my mother about having to run cross-country in college along the Volga embankment.  Given that I was second slowest only to the much heavier girl in my class back home, I dreaded the humiliation a decade in advance.  Even at age ten or so, I was occasionally giving myself pep talks that in college, everyone else will be too mature to tease the unathletic girl.  Of course, history showed that in the US, the university I attended did not have a phys ed requirement.  Go Blue and God Bless America!

In sixth grade, when I secretly quit the art studio that I was attending at the Young Pioneers Palace, I did so for several reasons.  One of them was that there were too many girls (they were all girls, if memory serves) who were much better artists than me.  And I hated getting paint all over myself.  I was quite a sloppy artist.  And I longed to paint with watercolors when all we were allowed was gouache, for reasons that are still passing understanding.  But most importantly, I got a better offer.  I was old enough to ride the trolley after school by myself, without my omnipresent and ever vigilant grandma.  My BFF decided to go to the track and field school with “Olympic reserve”.  She asked me to come along.  Apparently her father was some kind of a coach there, and he got us in—his tall, lean, fast daughter, and her friend with zero athletic prowess but a game attitude.

The school was fun.  I was terrible, of course, but since the exercise was neither mandatory nor graded, and gave me a chance to spend time with my friend rather than with grandma or the pretentious girls at the art studio, I went regularly.  The thing is, I am slow runner, but knowing that you have no chance at winning can be kind of liberating.  At the art studio, I tried and failed. At the track school, any attempt was a win for me.  And then came hurdles.

No, not hurdles as in virtual obstacles—real hurdles.  Here is why I loved them, even if I did a faceplant the first time I ran at one.  You don’t have to run as fast as the runners, or jump as high as the jumpers (that’s another thing I am really bad at, jumping).  I mean, of course Edwin Moses runs fast and jumps high (am I dating myself, mentioning Edwin Moses?  Al least I did not say David Burghley), but in the track and field school with “Olympic reserve” in 1980, the friend of the daughter of some dubious coach whom we never actually saw there had some mild fun with the hurdles. 

Once my grandmother found out, I don’t remember how, that I was hurdling rather than painting, there was a huge row.  There was always a huge row about something at our house.  My grandmother is of the “spare the rod, spoil the child” parenting philosophy, but this is not about her.  Soon thereafter we left the country.  And my friend stopped going once I left.  That still strikes me as sad.

So this was 1980.  In 1982, a huge beautiful film about 1924 Paris Olympics won the Best Picture Oscar for 1981.  I was living with my mother in Jackson, Michigan at the time and had no idea what an Oscar was.  My mother, who was in her Americanization phase then (to be fair, it lasted about three decades), took me to the cinema behind Paka Plaza (now defunct) to see this award-winning movie.  I instantly fell in love with Nigel Havers, a quintessentially English actor who played the part of the hurdler Lord Andrew Lindsay (David Burghley in real life).  This led to a lifetime love of British entertainment, especially PBS and BBC America.  And as for Nigel Havers, I actually saw him live on stage in Norwich, as Serge in “Art” a year ago.  How things do come full circle—and how can I write this and not feel like the luckiest girl in the world?

Briefly inspired by “Chariots of Fire”, which I saw over 25 times in the cinema alone and Lord knows how many times on VHS once we acquired a VCR, I did try to run then.  My mother bought be a book on running, or maybe I borrowed one from the library, and took me to a back road behind our apartment complex.  I might have run for a minute as recommended for beginners, spent another 30 sitting in the grass, and went home not to run again until 2016.

Despite my lifelong tendency to overthink, the decision to run was never a plan.  I say that it was an uncharacteristically swift decision for me, but I have been known to make those on occasion.  Some resolutions are just easier made and kept than others.  When you know, you know. 

Sometime in late 2015, I went on an 8k walk with a casual friend who runs.  She is not a conventional fitness model-looking person such as the ones one sees in videos, but a regular fun loving beer drinking gal who is but a few short years younger than me.  Yet clearly, she runs.  And that’s when I said to myself, if she runs, I can run. The 8k walk was no trouble, and I said to myself—in a year’s time, I will run a half marathon.  The long and short of it, I did.  And then another one, a year later.  And another one, on my 50th birthday.

The race is on!

Going back to “Chariots of Fire” as inspiration, the one thing that continuously strikes me as funny is that when I think of myself as Harold Abrahams or Eric Liddell, well, they were not marathoners.  They were sprinters.  Harold Abrahams was “the fastest man on Earth” in 1924.  Speed is still not my thing.

Running is a pretty cool thing, though.  I run barely faster than I walk, but I have seen some amazing sights as a runner. It is a new identity that I have tried on for size, and after three years, yes, that is who I am.  I am a runner. I am #oldladyrunning.