He wore a cowry shell necklace and enough white ribbed tanks that the next summer, camp banned male staff from wearing them. (Rock climber arms for dayyyyyys.)
Dating was discouraged, but we found each other like magnets and finessed the group hang. We met before meetings on the tree lined hill below the dining hall and stargazed late each day we schemed off together. Once, I think our time together even involved a creek hike.
Looking back, I can see how he got the wrong idea. Not about me liking him–that much was clear to everyone–but about my affinity for things like dirt and sport sandals and outside.
It’s not that I lied about being the outdoor type. I liked being a camp counselor, but I was there for the community and singing and late night heart-to-hearts on the deck over Pop-Tarts swiped from the kitchen. I was a religion major and future youth pastor who enjoyed Bible studies not bug bites. I taught helmet sports because no one else wanted to and co-led the mountain biking elective because they needed a woman. I was nothing if not dutiful, and I manufactured enthusiasm like a champ for those kids, because my counselors had done it for me growing up, and it was all part of the magic.
But outdoorsy and athletic I am not. God bless the great indoors.
One time in college I went for a run to CVS, and it was every bit as horrid as running the cursed mile in gym for Presidential Fitness. I walked home and that was that, fifteen years ago. My first and last volitional run.
We have these friends with matching six packs, strange people for whom running is like pleasure instead of death. Their sculpted bodies might be sort of intimidating if they weren’t part and parcel of two of my favorite people in the world, and when I confessed I’d never once run on a treadmill, their eyes grew wide, mouths agape. I’d been made again.
Four years ago, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through hell and back to get healthy with more grace and tenacity than is fathomable to me. On Mothers’ Day, there’s a 5K dedicated to survivors and research, so my siblings–by blood and love and law–are running it in celebration. All seven of us. Even me.
I downloaded a Couch-to-5K app on my iPod, and I’m plugging away, getting stronger as the earth springs back to life. I walk and jog on command, past nests laden with eggs, grazing cattle, and curious foxes with ears like antennae. I run from irate geese and sunning snakes, and every time a twig snaps, I pray against bears.
I ran the track in town a few times, but my favorite is the old railroad bed, where I mostly run unseen, save for spring beauty blooming pink among greening grass. I like the quiet and the landscape and the absence of an audience to my huffing, labored steps. I haven’t been this alone in a while, and it’s delicious.
But it’s not pretty. I’m sure my form is awful, and few would confuse my frame for outdoorsy or athletic now, but still I show up, laces tied. I do the work in embarrassingly scant but growing increments, drinking deeply of the fragrant April air. The peepers chirp in the evenings, and although my legs drag like lead, there’s a lightness in my spirit that wasn’t there this winter or last year.
He’s proud of me, my rock climber, and I am, too, when I breathlessly reach that next telephone pole or stretch my screaming calves at home at last, a bit less sore today than I was last week.
[Spoiler: I DID IT! All the gingers are my siblings. Love you all. xo]
Team Breastfix at Tiffany's

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