the olympics in middle age

i have learned, at least in my life, that watching the olympics changes over the history of one’s life. when i was young, although i was the furthest thing from an athlete, i would watch these amazing games with the wide eyed wonder of a hopeful child, dreaming that perhaps one day i could be there, walking down that walkway that leads to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  I could see myself, long blonde hair blowing in the breeze as i skated across the ice, spinning and leaping through the air in the long or short program of my figure skating performance. believe me there were several hair cuts that were inspired in my life by the olympic atheletes…any one remember Dorothy Hammil? Sometimes it was a dream as simple as being one of the people who would be dressed in a strange costume carrying the name of a country during the opening ceremony’s.  The Olympics were a family event in my home growing up.  I would love those evenings when we all as a family gathered around the TV set to watch expectantly for the US to win another medal.  

Then as I got older and the hopes of being a competitor in the olympics faded into the past, not that it was ever a reality in the least, other things would race through my mind. For instance “I wonder if that guy is single and if he would love to marry me?” Another dream that was pretty unattainable but very fun to think about.  But still the family moments still rang very true.  I remember watching the dream team Hockey Team that won that amazing battle in the 80’s for gold.  My family sat watching, along with the rest of the country, with bated breath as the dream team pelted in those pucks to win the gold for a country that was so very grateful.  And more often then not a movie of the week (we had no cable, or Lifetime, or netflix at that time) would be promoted for several weeks building up the excitement so we could relive those magical moments again.  Sometimes those movies were so big that they actually were shown in the movie theater, some of my favorites were cool runnings, chariots of fire, miracle.  The olympics have always been one of those things that brings our families, our culture, our country and our entire world together on a level that is rarely seen.  

As my own kids grew I watched with them as the olympics would fill the tv screen with sights and sounds and cultures that they had never seen before. They would pick out their own favorite sports, they would root for their favorites.  And we would cheer together.  Those are memories that now, as I look back, are so precious to me.  Those few times that were spent as a family with no one screaming to turn the channel to something else.  We all agreed on what we would watch…and we all felt pride in our atheletes and our country for every medal that was won.  It didn’t matter the color of the medal, honestly it didn’t really matter if there was a metal.  What mattered was that it was our nation working together, celebrating together.

Now, as a middle aged women, with kids of my own who are all grown up, I am sitting here, with the dog, watching these opening ceremonies, mezmorized by the colors, by the spectacle of the whole thing. On the screen is this little girl, fearlessly being flown hundreds of feet in the air to tell the story of Russia, and the stadium is silent.  Seeing the wars and horrible times that Russia went through also binds us all together as countries, none of us having been kept from those awful times in our own histories.  This year I am not watching the Olympics dreaming about what I could do in the games, or even dreaming about what sports my own kids could medal in, but rather I am enjoying the art, the sport, the thrill of it all. I am hoping for safety for our young athletes, I am hoping for calm, for safety in a very unstable world.  And I am remembering all the happy times that I have had in my own life, thanks to the Winter Games.  Go USA…and let the games Begin!

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