Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nashville's Country Music Marathon

When my older brother turned 13, we had a birthday dinner for him in our little red brick house on the corner of 27th and Park in Lincoln, Nebraska that I consistently think about throughout different stages of my life. It was an old 1920's brick house with a wrap-around porch, and the small kitchen had a cozy breakfast nook where our large handmade table resided to fit all five kids and a mom and a dad. It was a tight squeeze to fit everyone in, and when you sat down at your designated spot, you were committed to that spot because getting up required others to stand, shift, move, and complain. We began that dinner like all our other dinners: by holding hands and saying a family prayer.

I clearly remember a long cardboard box with a present for Chris. With Sharpie markers of different colors (an early love), I decorated the words "Happy Birthday Chris!!! You're a teenager!!!" That night, at dinner, we celebrated Chris and my dad made a simple, enthusiastic comment something on the lines of "Wow. I can't believe you're 13! Before we know it you'll be driving, and then going off to college and a mission!" It was then that I quietly excused myself from the table to the small half bath off the kitchen, shut the door, and cried into my 10 year-old hands.

I know this may be hard for some of you to believe, but I've often been accused by my family and friends as being a little "sentimental." I didn't want to my family to see me cry, and yet, as I was sobbing in the that little closet of a bathroom, looking through my blurry tears at the wallpaper made by pasting old covers of The New Yorker magazine on the wall, I was a little horrified that they weren't all crying, too.

I have always felt very close to my brothers and sisters and parents. I realized (even at 10) that inevitably we would all grow up, want to move out of the house, and we wouldn't really end up living on the same street as each other, raising our kids together and having dinner together every night. That was what "growing up" meant. And I hated that I knew it had to be that way and there was nothing to do to stop it.

Lest you think I was too "serious" a child, let me explain that most of my motivation for feeling this way came to the seamless way my immediate family communicates with each other. We are loud and find our greatest satisfaction in life (or at least I do) in making each other laugh. Not everyone gets our humor. But we do. Not everyone appreciates the way we talk over each other or talk louder and louder to emphasize our point of view, but, to me, that's the purest form of communication. And, there are some things you can say, or admit, to your brothers and sisters and just because you share the same parents, upbringing, crucial memories and so on, you don't have to explain yourself so much, which is tiring.

All of this is to explain why I trained everyday for 14 weeks, flew to Nashville, spent money buying shoes and clothes and gels and time doing things I wasn't sure I could do--like running for more than 2 minutes (which was where I was when I started) and getting up before the kids and running up Timpview in the snow and rain. I did it so that I could have a moment with my brothers and sisters. I didn't know if I could do it, but I loved the idea that we could do it together. We ran the whole way together and waited for each other during the 13.1 miles so that, when we approached the finish line, all five of us held hands and crossed the finish line together.

Running the 1/2 marathon was a personal accomplishment of a physical goal, but it was also like getting a little piece of my childhood back, for just a moment.

(Gina made the girls matching shirts and my brother, Chris, is waiting for some dental work so he took out his temporary front tooth to run. . . SEE HOW MUCH FUN WE ARE?!)


  1. Congratulations! And if you can't take out your front tooth in Tennessee then where the heck CAN you take it out?

    He must be awaiting an implant for #9 and took out his flipper- I'm a hygienist not a psychic....

  2. Mom and Dad had the most fun in Nashville while eating wonderful meals and watching how much our kids love each other.

  3. This is so very sweet. Congrats on your race! Now you can do anything.

    PS: I saw Alice in Wonderland. Your analysis of that movie was totally, 100% right on. I will never doubt again.

  4. Thanks for writing what I feel! I love you!

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  6. That last post was me, but after I posted it, I realized Molly was signed in.

    I love that Valentine clan! I had total flashbacks after reading your description of your family and house. I remember when we were about 6? years old and running into the kitchen and found your Mom and Dad kissing (making out. . )and we ran into that fantastic little bathroom giggling and hiding. After about 2 minutes! your Dad said "you can come out now!"

    I LOVE that you all did this "together!!" (and the holding hands part? now I'm tearing up.)

  7. What an amazing post and a fantastic achievement for you all. As one of five, this post resonated with me strongly. You are a very good writer!