I was still playing with dolls when my brother came home from school with a handful of ribbons. He was saying something about Track and Field, competition, winning – I could barely hear over the noise of those silken colors. “How can I get some?” I asked. “You don’t GET them, you have to WIN them!” “How do I win them?” “Not for girls,” he said. “If it’s not for girls, why do they reward you with ribbons?” He pushed me aside, and I knew I had already won.
I would have to wait for several years, but I was first in line to receive our 7th grade track uniforms. The coach pulled out a gray hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants. Our school colors were red and black. I started to ask if this was my size. She rolled her eyes. There were no options.
Armed with youth, I donned the gray and ran in the spring rain to the field. With no worry of soiling our “uniforms,” we collapsed in the grass to catch our breath.
Experts at nothing, we entered everything. I ran in relays. Jumped high and long. Put the shot. And threw the discus. I was covered in stains at our first meet. Teachers of English and Math, dressed in sweatsuits, wrote down our times and distances. I placed in many events that day and couldn’t wait to get my ribbons. The teachers told us to get on the bus. Wait! Where were our ribbons? Did we get them on the bus?
Ribbons, they explained, would not be given out until the last meet. I felt like I was being dared to continue, so I did. I suppose it was ironic that my greatest competition that spring was a girl named Autumn. Autumn had long flowing hair, straight out of a TV commercial. In this battle of seasons, I dragged myself to the final meet of the season.
There were five places for each event, or as I thought of them — Blue, Red, White, Yellow, Green. I was so surprised that I had come to actually enjoy the events. I had worked hard. Even before the ceremony I found myself smiling. Proud even. With no thoughts of my brother, or Autumn, my heart felt strong. I had won, even before I took home two blues, a yellow and a green.
I don’t know what happened to the ribbons. But my heart remains strong. Able. Willing! (Winning) I find myself smiling, in every color, knowing that I am enough!