I turned a huge 10 years old in August of 1976. It was a bicentennial year and a summer of Olympics. Those nights before my birthday include memories of my friends and I running in the neighborhood by day and then striving to get to our living room finish lines by nightfall. Once our street lights went out, we sprinted a mini-marathon to our own homes to watch the lights that were still on at the Olympic games.
Our small town U.S.A. and big Canadian brood had live, color, family entertainment brought right to our door. It was a big deal for me because I was too young to remember the Olympics four years prior. Even the older members of our family had never seen the Olympics in color. We’d always had a small black and white TV on a bookshelf. Only recently had we inherited my grandmother’s RCA piece of furniture television console. That generation and a large section of our industrial town also took pride that the Olympics were being held in Montreal. We were U.S. citizens watching the Olympics happening in the land of our ancestors. The other nationalities down at the mill couldn’t weave that into their stories.
It was also the summer I met Bruce. He was my Six-Million-Dollar Man and I was one of his Angels. He just didn’t know it. These were my Happy Days and this was What Was Happening as I turned double digits. My Dad wasn’t a fan of the boob tube or All In The Family but when we all did watch TV as a family, it was so my mother could investigate with Quincy or we could watch the Muppets be heckled. If my older sisters got a chance to turn the dial, we’d hang out with Mary and Rhoda or Laverne and Shirley. While those ladies were way cool to know at ten, I certainly didn’t relate to the guys like Kojak or Sanford. That’s why I looked forward to the air time they gave track and field that summer. This twenty-something man hunk was always running my way. I was keeping track of that red jersey every night and I had a field of interest to be his Bionic Woman. I was an American and I was definitely carrying a torch for Bruce.
To learn that a decathlon was ten events made me feel like we had something in common. I had a variety of track and field going on right in my own back yard. I remember sprinting down the street, trying to jump across the driveway, hurdling the fence, spinning in circles (minus the discus) and sometimes wanting to throw my little sister like a javelin. It was the best of times for me and the worst of times for her. My siblings and I grew up outside and that was fine by me. I had learned that you could play more than one sport and I loved them all. Our town neighborhood Olympics included biking, croquet, badmitton, jumprope and hopscotch. Those were every day. The other events were special treats like roller skating on the asphalt if Mom wasn’t looking, swimming at the town lake if we could convince Dad it was hot enough, playing basketball in the local Police league on Saturday mornings, learning softball on the farm team and shooting pool in the neighbor’s barn if the big kids weren’t around to kick us out.
In the spirit of the 2014 Winter games, I reflect on my own memories and inspirations. I always loved to run and learned to appreciate the split second. I was first on the batting list because I could always get on base. They let me play on the basketball team because I was fast on my feet on defense. There was blood, sweat and tears in each sport and event and I loved every second. I’m much older and less active now but enjoy watching my own personal olympic memories run across the page. I never did get my bionic arm, or Bruce, but I am a Mom with bionic hearing and a love for the multi-sport athlete. It makes me wonder if my Russian friend Tatiana, or my own daughters as her name translates, are building their own memories during these Winter Olympic games? The plasma television won’t be remotely similar but I’m sure they’ll still have a love for the games – home and abroad. I think they’ve learned to have fun in the snow and will go for the gold. Thanks, Bruce.