Dunn Neugebauer Column: A Sweet Sense Of Normalcy

Image by Eric Champlin

Sixty-two of them gathered in early August at the river -- all young and energetic, full of life and piss and vinegar. It gave me goosebumps even writing this -- the chatter, the playfulness, the life, the awkward attempts at flirting. The cross country kid is not your football kid -- muscles are replaced by angles and elbows. Legs don't jut out, but instead grow upwards as two large, lanky bones. What passes for arms that protrude out of their shirts could be mistaken for warts, perhaps gotten rid of by a dose of Compound W, though I'm not really sure they still make that stuff.

It is the hopes of a season…and the reminder of what I pray will continue. Three got lost. One left her Swell bottle in my trunk. One started out in one group and ended up in another. One had to stop and throw up. And speaking of goosebumps, it was hearing a conversation with the incorrect and overuse of the word 'like.' "I was…like…really tired of sitting on my couch so I…like…went for a run and it was…like…really hot and I …like…"

It was the joy of reminding them to run two-by-two at the river, therefore not blocking it or intruding upon the other runners and walkers on the public course. They nod, the information does go in -- for a little while. 

Still, they start two across until one begins to tell a story. Soon, they are three, seven, and ten wide while they all gather in one large collective row to listen. Blocking the trail? You couldn't fit a dime between any of them.

At this point, the writer in me often takes over, nudges the coach aside. I'm supposed to yell and correct, but the transference of their energy over to me is just so…needed. Perhaps tomorrow I will instruct, but not today. Not now. 

They came back on time -- most of them anyway. They had to be reminded to stretch. When you're 60, you have no choice. When you're 14, however, it's just another chore, like taking out the trash or remembering to put your phone away when you're supposed to be studying.

Still, most say thank you before they leave, something I never did. All seem happy to be mixing and matching again. As for me, everything's day-to-day, fluid, ever-changing. But as I drive off, I had to smile. After all, it was the first day of a new season. And if made me…like… realize that…like…I really have missed this.