A few weeks ago my daughter started talking about doing the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. One of her friends was on a team and they wanted to walk together. It sounded perfect; support a great cause, let her learn the value of volunteering, and all on Mother’s Day weekend. Sweet.
But to be honest, I couldn’t get into it. I’m ashamed to say it felt like a chore, like one more thing to check off the list. I know, I know. Bad mom. Bad person. And as I grudgingly entered our information on the website, I can’t even tell you how tempted I was to click the “Sleep In for the Cure” button instead.
But I didn’t. Which I was reminded of as my alarm went off at 5:30 am that Saturday morning.
As we closed in on the Expo Center (where the event was), I was shocked by how thick the traffic had gotten. There were lines of cars at least a mile long waiting to exit. This was a big deal.
Half an hour later we were walking toward the registration desk, in a sea of energized pink chaos, the air buzzing with laughter and snippets of conversations: “…I promised my sister,” and “If my tests come back positive I’m going to have the other one removed.” “Yeah,” another woman said laughing and rolling her eyes, “my aunt lost both of them and then had her uterus taken out too.”
They could’ve been talking about what they were having for dinner or where they were going on vacation. They could’ve been laughing over coffee. They were that comfortable. But then, they hadn’t been given a choice.
A chill ran up and down my arms, despite the warm morning. I wrapped my arm around my daughter, wondering if she had heard. “Let’s not fight today, okay?” She looked over and nodded, her eyes full of understanding, “Okay, mom.”
We registered, pinned our numbers on our new t-shirts and headed toward the starting line, trying to find her friend. There was something very powerful about putting on that white shirt and fading into the crowd of pink ribbons, feather boas and hats, walking together under signs like “Jogging for Jugs,” “Walkers 4 Knockers,” and one of my favorites, “Erin Go Bras.”
For a few hours we walked beside men and women with pink square signs that said things like, “I walk in celebration of Joan,” and “In memory of my wife.”
We walked beside families with pictures of passed loved ones on their t-shirts; women with big smiles and even bigger strength. We walked beside women who proudly wore bright pink shirts that said, “Survivor.”
All day the mood was positive, celebratory even. These women had no time for sadness or loss. They were on a mission. They had seen it all, had been through it all, and were done with crying. I think I was the only one who had trouble keeping it together. I spent the morning taking it in, realizing how lucky I was and how glad I was that I hadn’t slept in. And I kept it together.
And then I saw a little boy, about 8 years old, walking with his dad. He had bright blonde hair and little silver sunglasses. And pinned to the back of his shirt was a square, pink sign that said, “In Memory of My Mom.”
He turned around and smiled, and on the front of his shirt was a picture of a beautiful young woman, surely his mom. Above the picture were the words, “No Tears.”
I was glad for the brightness of the day and for my big California sunglasses, because I couldn’t follow his rule. I cried like an innocent, like someone lucky enough to be naive to the whole scene.
It was a pretty amazing day. I guess sometimes even good people need a kick in the ass. I just had mine.
Do the exams, donate, participate in a race. Be good to your boobies. Whether they’re small and perky, large and luscious, or somewhere in between, whether they’re your own or just a pair you love like your own, take care of the boobies in your life and the women who stand behind them. Because trust me when I tell you, there are already too many square, pink signs pinned to t-shirts on race day.