Barnebirkie Memories

It's  Barnebirkie day! The Barnebirkie is Hayward's cross country ski race for children, which always occurs a day or two before our town's great, world class event, The American Birkebeiner.

Though my children are all grown now, I think I'll saunter down to Main Street this afternoon and ring a cowbell -- for the kids and also for their parents.

Heartwarming memories flood my mind this morning as I reflect on what it felt like to help my kids become Nordic champions for a day.

For nearly two decades, on race day, I'd feed my kids spaghetti, bundle them up, strap on the racing bibs, and bring them to the Barnebirkie starting line.

At the kickoff festivities, a sea of eager little faces anticipated the daunting wilderness trek before them -- a whole kilometer or two -- all the way through the golf course, by the armory, past the school and down Main Street, amid a cheering throng of spectators ringing cowbells.

Yes, for twenty years, I accompanied at least one of my children all the way down to the finish line -- shouting little encouragements along the way. "Way to go! You're doing great! Keep it up! Don't quit! Look! All these people are cheering for you!"

My fondest memories are when I've taken my preschool aged children on their first ski pilgrimage (five kids means multiple firsts!)

For a three year old, the Barnie is larger than life -- overwhelming at times. Impossible. There are so many big kids -- and it's such a long trek, especially when the mercury dips to five or ten below zero.

There are falls, scrapes,  shoves, bumps, runny noses, frozen toes, and tears. It's loud. It's crowded. It can even be a bit frightening, especially when they see the two huge Norse mascots on skis with spears.

For the three year old's daddy, the race becomes bigger than the Winter Olympics -- and far, far more important than how the Italian elites fare on Saturday. The only thing that matters is getting your kid to the finish line.

I'll never forget, after a few shaky starts, rounding the bend onto Main Street, with my little ones, and seeing hundreds of friendly faces: waving, smiling, cheering, and clanging cowbells. "Keep going! You're almost there!"

I swallowed hard and wiped a tear.

Once we hit the final stretch, it's a fresh burst of inspiration all the way to the finish line -- where every kid gets a medal, a cup of hot cider, and a big cookie.

Everyone goes home a winner.

And every year, while unstrapping skis, I wondered if there may be a life lesson tucked away somewhere in that experience.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." -- 2 Tim. 4:7


lorilei said…
It is about fighting the good fight, being with your group of scrappy folks, dogs, and family...!

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