Today was sports day for the senior half of the boys' school, from grades two to five. The senior grades are separated into "houses": Blue (Tanager), Green (Hummingbird), Red (Scarlet Ibis), and Yellow (Keskidee).
We are blue. Blue hasn't won in sports since something like 1976. We get the Academics Cup though, often! Blue House are nerds, okay? Families are always in the same house, and teachers have houses too. This is SERIOUS STUFF! During the school year, house competitiveness simmers. Points are gained or lost for academic performance, behaviour, and sports, and added up at the end of the school year.
Due to our many, many years of coming Last or Second To Last on sports day, we have taken Losing on Sports Day to a fine art. Our tent? Is the coolest. Our opponents come over and say "You have a Doubles Lady??? (doubles: umm.... Curried channa in a "barra" bread?) And a cooler full of drinks? And watermelon and cookies?? Wow!"
We say, "Yeah, enemy. You've got the brawn, but WE've got the brains! Go back to your own tent and SUFFER!" They drink gatorade. We have freezies and snacks.
All friendships with those from enemy houses cease on sports day, but in a nice way, mostly. Not many insults are hurled, and it's mostly good-natured. Luckily, many (though not all) of our best friends are in Blue House with us, so it is lots of fun.
Yellow House has won on sports day for eight years straight. The other three houses say things like "We're gonna bring 'em down!" without much conviction.
This morning we settled ourselves in for our annual Losing on Sports Day Party. But then, something weird happened.
Our kids? Were winning. Not all the time, but enough to make us wonder. And Yellow House? Was not doing as amazingly as usual. Hmmmmm. Our kids started to taunt the Yellow tent, "What happened to YOU today?" and we chided them: "Now, dears, just because we're super smart AND fast doesn't mean we can't be really polite too!"
Then, about two hours into the games, the scores so far were read out.
Blue, Yellow and Red: tied for first place. Green way behind.
The screaming and whooping that ensued from our tent was matched by the screaming and whooping from Green and Red, who couldn't BELIEVE that Yellow Might Fall. We might even come second or something! Maybe even... Dare we think it? FIRST?
We got serious. We started to coach the kids: "Look at the finish line! Look at the ball and spoon! Take your time! Hurry up! Focus! Ignore the crowd! Listen! RUN! RUUUUUNNN!!!" Miraculously, they ran. Oh boy, did they run. Kids who usually joke around were standing at the starting line with the winner's gleam in their eye, gaze FIXED upon the finish line. Chas and Sam both got medals in the ball and spoon races and in relays!
The scores were called at half day. Yellow, slipping back to third. Red close second. Blue in first place! The action rose to a fever pitch. Rain fell once or twice, a gentle misty cooling rain followed by steamy tropical mugginess. And muddiness! The games continued, regardless of weather. At that point, an outright thunderstorm wouldn't have stopped the races, things were so close and so exciting. Parents teachers and teammates were standing in the drizzle, SCREAMING! Waving flags and banners! Ignoring the snacks! One Dad made up a chant: "WHO ARE WE?" we all yelled "BLUE HOUSE!" which we repeated till we collapsed into whooping and screaming again.
We stayed ahead. But close. Ohhhh, soooo close. At any moment, Red, who had crept past the demoralized Yellow, could creep by us too! Oh, it is a good thing all of us had good hearts, or I am sure we would have lost a parent today. Family members at work and even in foreign countries were phoned with the news. A running commentary by cell phone was being sent to Catherine, who is "THE Blue House Mother" according to my kids. She was in the states, and I am SO sorry she missed today. She usually shouts loudest, brings the best food, and generally tries to get the BEST out of the kids. They missed her. Her kids did really well, bringing in many valuable points, but there were others too...
At three-quarters time, Red was so close behind us it was terrifying. And then tragedy struck. The novelty relay? It didn't go so well. Our hat blew off. Our skirt was coming down. The tie wouldn't stay tied! The hula hoop? Would not cooperate. We came last. We were seriously concerned. We had an emergency meeting. The water relay, where the team has to get as much water as possible into their bucket at the other end of the field, was our last chance at greatness. This was it.
The kids lined up for the relay race, deadly serious. The whistle blew. They ran like there were whips behind them. They filled their cups. They emptied them into the bucket. They went back and forth faster than lightning.
We beat them.....! We crossed our fingers. Then we waited for the final flat races, Mums race, Dads race, Teachers ball and spoon, (all of which get house points) and the scores were all tallied up in the judges tent and we held our breath.
Medals were handed out to the winners, while we bit our nails in anticipation; and while the rain poured down, for it had really started to pour, the final house scores were read out.
We got sportsman AND sportswoman of the year, AND the House Victory Shield that has never before seen our house name upon it's hallowed carved face. Kids cried for joy. They hugged, jumped, and hugged some more. Mums, teachers, and even Dads wept. Red and Green houses stormed our tent with yelling and whooping, and Yellow sat glumly in the drizzle. History? Was made today, folks. WE! WON!!!
We are still trying to believe that it really happened! Blue House kids are exhausted, sore, sprained and bruised from pushing the extra push. Running till their lungs might burst. Ignoring cramp, sprains and blisters. They are sleeping, all of them, the sleep of the deserving winners.