There’s nothing more Pacific Northwest than spreading your Pendleton car blanket on the grass at Skykomish River Park in Monroe and waiting for a middle school cross country meet to begin. It’s the end of a long day of work. You’re exhausted. You have no idea what you’ll make for dinner later that evening, or how long this race will last. You can’t even find your middle schooler. Has the bus arrived yet?
Still, right now in this moment, sitting on the blanket underneath the shady tree, everything is perfect.
The rest of the country is either sweltering, freezing or battling hurricanes, but here in Western Washington, the temperature delights. It’s neither too hot nor too warm. You could wear a sweater if you wanted to, but there’s really no need for one.
The park expands from fields to playgrounds. There’s a public restroom that’s so clean that it even has hot and cold running water. Monroe has every right to be proud of this park. This is a valuable public space not just for the people of Monroe, but for all the neighboring communities that visit it. You feel safe, refreshed and grateful to live in Snohomish County.
The school busses pull up and middle schoolers march to the restroom like lines of ants. Snippets of their conversations make you chuckle.
“How did you know it was poop? Were you sure?”
“That’s not what eyebrows are supposed to look like.”
(A chorus of boys singing like the cast of Top Gun) “You’ve lost that looooooving feeeeeling.”
Other parents arrive, some you recognize and some you don’t. You chat with a dad who used to volunteer at your kid’s elementary school. You shoot the breeze about middle school and high school life. A lady you know from Maltby arrives, and you comment on how what a small world it is.
Finally, the race begins. Hopping off your blanket, you trot over to the starting line. The kids run down the path and you shout with all your might, cheering them on. Fifteen seconds later, they are gone. You can’t see them anymore.
That was it. You drove all this way for 15 seconds. But then no, six minutes later they run by you again and you cheer for another 15 seconds.
“Hang it there!” you cry. “Way to go, runners!” You cheer for your own child as well as their entire school. Then you cheer for the stragglers as well, now matter what school they come from. Gosh darn it, they have heart, even though they struggle. “You’ve got this! Keep going!”
When the race ends, you run to the finish line to clap for your child for another 15 seconds. All in all, it took you two hours of driving and waiting to offer them 45 seconds of support. But it was worth it, not only for what you were able to give your middle schooler, but because of what you received yourself in the golden minutes when you sat on your blanket under a shady tree and soaked in everything Skykomish River Park had to offer.
Jennifer Bardsley is the author of “Sweet Bliss,” “Good Catch” and more. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at email@example.com.