[Transcribed at 0.5x speed from a taped interview.]
So they asked me to write this down because apparently what happened to me is special and unique and hasn’t happened too often.
As best as I can recall it all started at my final meet of the season. Oh! Yeah! I was a track star in college. I mean, I’ve always wanted to run super-fast. When I was really young we lived in the country. Dad was a county extensions manager and he would go out to the farms and give advice to the farmers who needed help with livestock, or crops. He would tell them about loans or about businesses that would buy for the most money and stuff. He was really good at what he did. Mama was a teacher. She taught in the combined elementary and middle school. There weren’t many of us kids in that area, and most had to travel really far to get to the school. She did her best to not only teach but to make it relevant to the lives we were likely to lead. She was loved by the whole community because she went so far out of her way to help out. She also did things like the local quilting bees and keeping kids when the parents needed all hands on deck for harvest. Our home was always open to the community.
Those were golden years for me. Because my parents were so busy, and the place we lived was so safe, I was allowed to basically run wild, and run I did. I knew the trails behind the house, the fields where the mean cows lived, the woods, and the quickest way from house to house. I could jump creeks and run on logs over ravines. I ran so fast it felt like flying!
When I was still pretty young, oh, about eight I guess, the government shut down my dad’s office. They would let him keep his job, but we would have to move to a bigger town. My parents, and the community, were broken-hearted, but he had to do it so that we could live.
That was the first time my mom and I were in separate places. She got a job at the elementary school, but I was now in middle school. The kids laughed at me of course. I was not that far from wild and all I knew was crops and livestock. I had no idea what the games or TV shows they were talking about were about. I was not interested in learning either which just made the whole thing miserable for all of us. They did have one thing though that made perfect sense to me, track. I could run. I could jump hurdles. I could long jump. I could even learn to pole vault! that was just heaven on earth. I excelled.
Over time I did make friends with the members of the track team, and I did start to fit in better. They accepted the eccentricities I had remaining and I learned to just accept people and not let their opinions worry me. I took our team to the National Finals my first year, and every year thereafter. When it came time to go to high school, there were recruiters trying to get me to go to different schools. I’m super glad that my parents refused them all. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to keep this life. Actually, I wanted things to go on like this forever.
High school was mostly a repetition of middle school. I did okay in school, and I utterly lived for track. The coach would have to kick me out to get me to go home. Our little high school won tournament after tournament. We had so much fun as a team. We were even invited to go to Japan for a competition. We managed to raise most of the money, but we were shy. The Japanese did their own fundraiser and got the last of the money we needed. We were all shocked at their generosity and caring. They were just as warm when we visited in person. Everything was so amazing there. We were so lucky to have that chance. It really changed a couple of the guys’ life paths. One studied Japanese and ended up teaching English there after college, and another became a voice actor for anime. How cool is that? And you know what, after being told that they wouldn’t have sweets as we knew them, the team there totally showed us that wasn’t true. We had some of the best sweets ever! I adore mochi and kakigori! I even had to learn how to make it for when we got home. They also made these great snacks, Onigiri. One of the guys showed me how, and I impressed mom by making them for us when I got home. I’m still friends with those guys. Oh, but yeah, so we had a camp where we did nothing but track competitions for a few days. It was awesome! They seemed really impressed that I could beat them all at so many events, but unlike Americans, they were proud of me and cheered for me instead of trying to bring me down. I learned a lot from those fellows.
Anyhow, after high school I was recruited by a lot of colleges. They had scouted me some along the way or course, so I was familiar with all the coaches. Some were the yelling kind, others the kill ’em with kindness sort, and just about everything in between. I picked based on the one that gave me the best vibe, the one who was tough but fair and treated everyone the same. It was a smaller school in Houston. They hadn’t been winning too much but they had enough to give me a full scholarship, which I wanted to spare mom and dad trying to figure out how to pay for it or going up to my elbows in debt. I hadn’t told anyone yet, because I went in undecided, but what I really wanted was to teach like mom. I saw the difference she was making in those young lives and I wanted a piece of that action! Shaping minds will shape the future after all.
So here I was, studying my hardest, and working my tail off at track in order to earn that scholarship. There wasn’t time for much else in my life really. It happened in my senior year. After four years of hard work both individually for me and for our team, we were going to compete for state champions in our division. We were so excited. The school threw us a first-rate pep rally and everything. We took the bus to Dallas and since it was between semesters we were all put up in the dorms. Day one went wonderfully! We were doing great by the numbers, and it looked like we would make it to the next round. Same for day 2. The final day, day 3, was steamy. Since it was the last day, there was a pretty sizable crowd out to see how the races and jumps panned out.
Have you ever been to a track event? No? Well, they are pretty causal and open, at least for small schools like ours. There are people milling about, and families and stuff. There are usually food trucks there to keep people happy. This was no exception, it felt sort of like a carnival.
I was stretching on the sidelines, sort of keeping warm for the next event, which for me was the long jump. I was near the fence around the track but sort of off by myself getting in the zone. I heard the gun go off for the start of a race and I looked to the track to see if any of my team needed cheering. As I looked up I saw a kid. I found out later that he was five. He’d gotten away from his parents and gotten onto the track. He was sort of jumping up and down enjoying the feel of the track. They are made of composite material and they are pretty springy. It’s fun, so I get where he was coming from. That said, he was in the middle of the track with a half dozen guys barreling down on him at full speed. People were definitely going to get hurt, and it might be pretty bad…
I didn’t think. I just made for the kid as fast as I could. I guess my plan was to scoop him up and make for the middle where we would all be safe. All I could see was the runners closing in and the kid not seeing them. You know how when you are hyped on adrenaline and everything sort of slows down around you? It was like that only more than I’d ever felt before. I didn’t think about jumping and I cleared the fence without even seeing it. I had to go faster…faster! I saw the runners closing in, the kid turning in slow motion, and then I had him by the waist and we were in the middle of the track. I kept expecting things to slow back down but they didn’t really. The kid was looking at me with huge eyes, his mouth hanging open. I guess I expected that because it didn’t seem odd. People were starting to stare and point, again, exactly what I would expect if they caught that show. People started coming over our way, and the kid struggled so much trying to get away that I let him down and he ran toward them. As long as it was away from the track it was fine by me.
After he ran off though, everyone was still staring and pointing at me. I couldn’t figure it out. No one was coming anywhere near me. Then I saw Coach approaching with this look on his face I still can’t describe. I was a bit afraid, a bit in awe, and a bit confused. That’s sort of how I was feeling too, confused. I was still buzzing and I kept wondering when the adrenaline would wear off. Coach called to me. I don’t honestly remember what he said, but he led me back to the locker room as people kept staring and pointing. Then we were in the locker room and I passed a mirror.
Oh my god, what the heck were those things?! Were those wings?! I looked down and that’s when I realized my feet weren’t touching the ground at all, and probably hadn’t been since I moved that kid. My wings were moving almost too quickly to see. They were beautiful. I mean, really. Look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous! I have great wings. Anyway, that about sums it up. I was poked and prodded and documented and interviewed and stuff for the next couple of years. Since they passed me from doc to doc for research, I stayed in school and got my master’s in child psychology. No sense in wasting time. They figured that it was a combo of magic coming back, my love of running full out, and my desperate need to save those folks that let me get ’em. it was rough at first, but it’s really been a blast.
That’s about it for that story. Nothing too fancy. I’ve got much better stories, like the one where I meet my spouse. Wanna hear one?