Welcome to the first And Babies Don’t Keep Storytellers linkup! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while – because while I know I always have the opportunity to just tell a good story, just by having a blog (or simply friends who listen) sometimes I need a push to actually do it.
Consider this your push.
Here’s a note from the introduction to this linkup (find the rest here) –
Ira Glass says that “Good stories happen to those who can tell them.” Whether you’re one of those people who always has a story to tell or not, watching for those story moments helps us stay present and fully engaged, and often helps us really drink life in. Different types of stories might move each of us – for me, noticing funny things as they happen makes the world seem alive and sparkly. Like the makeover story. I had so much fun watching that unfold and I COULD NOT WAIT TO SHARE IT. For you it may be more serious, more artistic, maybe even more melancholy. That’s okay. Telling stories helps us – it helps us process and understand and mourn and celebrate, and it helps us understand who we are and how we fit in to something bigger.
The linkup will be open for a week, and after it’s closed, I’ll pick one story to highlight and share. In the meantime, please read and comment on at least one other story. Linkups have been my favorite way to connect with bloggers – I’ve found some of my best blog friends this way! Alright, here we go.
My friend Katie is a runner. Not just a runner, an ultra-marathoner. I’m not sure if she’s training for anything right now, so if you call her an ultra-marathoner, she might protest. But if you’ve run 50 miles or more at a time ever in your life? You’re an ultra-marathoner. She’s an ultra-marathoner.
The summer after my first daughter was born, Katie and I went running. She was training for some horrific distance and I hadn’t run since the half-marathon I’d completed in May. Obviously, it made sense for us to run together. We lived just a few streets away, and texted about the weather as it got closer to run time.
Me: Have you checked the radar? It looks a little dark. Rain?
Katie: I don’t think it’s supposed to storm.
Me: Okay. See you in a few.
These days my texts would have been peppered with red cha-cha lady emojis but then, not so much.
I grabbed Liv and headed out to get the jogging stroller from the car. The air was heavy and thick, which is just another way of saying it was daytime in Columbia, South Carolina. I glanced up at the sky and partly because of the clouds, but mostly because I didn’t want to push the stroller while running with an ultra-marathoner, I texted Katie again.
Me: I’m going to see if Pat can watch Liv, hang on.
I called my mother-in-law, who lived a few streets past Katie. She said she’d be happy to watch Liv for me, so I dropped her off, then parked in front of Katie’s house. I took my keys inside and hesitated, then put my phone on the table in the entryway next to my keys.
I was nervous, like I always am when a) running with a new person, b) running a new route, and c) running.
We took off on Katie’s route, and I tried to get her to talk so I didn’t have to. This is my favorite strategy when running with friends: be prepared with a series of questions that require complicated answers. (Sorry Suzie, Emily, Katie, and anyone else I’ve ever gone running with.)
About a mile in, we turned onto a beautiful tree-lined street in an old neighborhood full of historic homes with remodeled kitchens and bathrooms. The leaves on trees were flipped inside out and it was so humid the limbs looked droopy like the ponytail gliding across my back. A few more minutes, and the sky started dropping bolts of lightning. You could feel the electricity in the air – the hair on the back of my neck stood and stayed.
“Katie, how far are we from your house?”
“Um, about a mile….” she trailed off.
“How far are we from your store?”
“Ahhh, not far. A few blocks.”
The lightening came faster and the time between the bolt and the bang disappeared. I’ve never done well in thunderstorms. I blame it the routine tornado watches of my Midwestern upbringing. My stomach was in knots. I’ve never really wanted to be fast until then.
“Katie, we need to get out of this. We’re not going to make it to the store,” I said, feeling a little embarrassed about being so worried. I’d noticed that since having a baby, I’d felt more of a need to protect myself. Whitewater rafting before baby? YES. Rock climbing? ABSOLUTELY. I was actually kind of good at it. After? Well, let’s just be glad we did that in our youth, shall we?
“Just stay under the trees where it’s safe,” she said. Her attempt to comfort me didn’t.
“UNDER the tree? No, that’s where the lightening goes.” Still, running in the middle of the street made me feel like a rod, slugging along, just asking for it. It’s drawn to the tallest thing around, I thought. I looked at Katie. She’s about 3 inches shorter than me. I picked up the pace.
“Okay, let’s go to CVS,” I said. The rain had started and was switching from heavy drops to sheets. We sprinted along a small iron gate, into the parking lot, and through the automatic accordion doors.
Inside it was bright and cool. I glanced behind us and realized how dark the sky had become. I wiped my wet hair off the sides of my face and looked at the cashier.
“Hi, it’s crazy out there,” I said between breathes.
Katie and I stood awkwardly for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. We ended up walking down the makeup aisle, looking at new products. I kept my eyes on the sky through the windows up where the walls met the ceiling. The sky was almost black. I glanced at my watch. 4:45.
“Katie, I need to call my mother-in-law. She knows we just left to go running. I feel like I need to make sure she knows we’re okay.”
“Yeah you probably should,” she said.
“My phone…it’s at your house.”
“I bet they’ll let you use the phone here.”
We walked to the front of the store and I noticed the doors were rattling at the force of the wind.
“Can I use the phone? I’m sorry, I left my baby with my mother-in-law and I need to tell her where we are.”
“Oooh, yeah. Just dial 1, 9, then the number,” the cashier said with a smile.
“Shoot. I don’t know their number. I’ll call Duff. We might need him to come get us anyway.” I knew he was in a meeting but I figured he’d answer when he saw me calling.
Except it wasn’t me calling. It was CVS. And who answers when CVS calls?
I dialed anyway, got his voicemail, and left him a message asking him to come get us as soon as possible. Liv was going to get hungry soon and the only thing worse than dropping a kid off at the last minute (a willing as my mother-in-law was) was dropping a kid off at the last minute without a bottle and then being late.
Katie and I made small talk about the storm with the cashier. Fifteen or twenty minutes in, it showed no signs of letting up. We grabbed a US Weekly and sat down in the sunscreen aisle to flip through it. The doors rattled harder, then slid open as two girls in their late teens ran in. They drew their shoulders up to their ears and rubbed their wet arms.
“Woooo! That is some rain,” one girl said. We all smiled and nodded. “Is it always like this? I just moved here from Maryland. We don’t have this kind of weather in Maryland.”
Katie and I laughed. “No, it’s not always like this.”
“You were running?”
We looked at each other and laughed again. “Um, yeah. Good call on our part, huh?”
She turned back to the door and we all looked outside. She pulled a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket and stuck one between her lips. “Wanna?” she asked her friend.
They stepped back towards the door and when it opened, the took one step out and then jumped back in. The a-frame sign advertising free flu shots started sliding along the sidewalk, flipped over, and bounced out of site.
“DANG!” she said. “I’m so nervous. It’s like I’m gonna get struck by lightening or something!” The cigarette bounced up and down as she talked.
“You aren’t going to get struck by lightening,” the cashier volunteered.
“Yeah, I think the chances of that are like, super low,” I said. Because clearly I’d found comfort in knowing that a few minutes before.
We all focused on reminding her how safe we were in our little CVS for a few seconds and then quieted down. Her friend piped up.
“My uncle got struck by lightening.”
“What. That’s crazy!”
“Was he under a tree or in the middle of the street?” I wanted to ask. I felt all our work at comforting the newcomer unraveling.
“Yeah, he got struck by lightening twelve years ago, and he still can’t talk,” she finished casually.
I glanced at Katie and we both bit our lips to keep from laughing. Partly because the comment was so unhelpful, partly just for the comedic relief, and partly because what are the chances?
About ten minutes later, the rain started dropping vertically again, like it was coming from an actual sky. The clouds started moving off, and the phone rang.
“Are you Kristi? It’s for you.” The cashier handed me the phone.
I explained the situation to Duff. “You left your phone?” he asked, and he said he’d be there in a few minutes. Our little storm weathering crew broke up; one went out to smoke and took her friend with her, the cashier went back to restocking the flip-flops, and Katie and I climbed in the car when Duff pulled up.
“Wow, you guys are soaked,” he said, and we rolled our eyes and laughed.
As we drove to Katie’s house, we had to turn around several times because freshly fallen trees blocked several of the streets between her house and the drug store. I grabbed my phone and my keys, and went to see my baby, who was sitting in the high chair palming Cheerios and putting every third one in her mouth.
Katie and I have joked about our “run” often. She grins and tells me to stay under the trees where it’s safe, and I ask her again if she really thought that was true or if she was just trying to make me feel better. She says she saw the new-mama fear in my eyes and was only trying to help.
It’s been four years and Katie and I have shared plenty of margaritas, belly laughs, and the best kind of hugs, but we haven’t gone running together again.
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