After waking up with a terrible migraine at 3 am Mother's Day morning (nothing like a Southside 1st communion party to stir up the memories of my 20-something drinking years), I nudged my husband to run downstairs and grab the Excedrin Migraine. It was the only way I'd be able to make the Beverly Cancer Walk Sunday morning. I tossed and turned for hours, finally awaking at 6:00 am. Out of curiosity, I checked to see what time my husband had set the alarm for our 8 am walk.
Not surprisingly, the wake-up time he felt would allow us enough room to stir the masses, feed 3 kids breakfast, get the air pump out of the garage to fill the tires of the double stroller, drive as close as we could to the start line, and invariably walk the last 6 blocks was (drum roll please)....7:00 am. One hour. It is a good thing he wasn't in charge of the Von Trapp family. The Nazis would have found them in their beds, and today's Salzburg tourists wouldn't be spinning around singing about mountain tops during their Sound of Music tour.
I must say, despite a raging hangover and battles with the children over appropriate attire, the walk itself was amazing. An endless stream of thousands of people showed up to support the local charity event. Not only were the walkers deeply committed, but so was every house on the route. Little girls in full Irish dancer garb held hands and hopped away with curls a-bouncing. Every third house was set up with water cups for any weary participants. Irish, rock, and folk bands appeared around each corner, playing live tunes at the crack of dawn. And for those unfortunate few who can't hold a tune in Beverly, why they just set up jumbo loud speakers blasting classic rock songs.
In my whole life, I have never seen a community so engaged in a single event. There were huge banners honoring loved ones and pink balloons tied to trees. I think I even saw a man with a cow bell cheering on the walkers. We need more cow bell!
Even though the atmosphere was extremely festive and hopeful, there was one striking image I cannot forget. For a while, we got stuck at the back of the pack due to a 20 minute Starbuck's bathroom break (shame on me for chugging the largest coffee I've ever had right before we left). But back there, I saw an older woman who seemed to have great difficulty walking. Every step, as small as it was, looked excruciatingly painful. We passed her in short order, and I fully expected her to get on one of the trolleys provided for the elderly and ill. As we talked with friends at the end of the walk, I noticed the woman finishing the 5K with a look of such determination. I will never know if she was walking for a mother, a friend, a child, or for herself. Perhaps I should have asked, but I was a bit in awe. After all, I almost missed the walk due to too many glasses of cabarnet the night before. What a jerk I would have been.
Another image I can envision right now is my sister-in-law walking with a ridiculously large flower-shaped helium balloon. Mary is the only girl in a family with 6 brothers. She wanted to be sure that if any of the dozens of family members she helped inspire walk need find her, they just could look up. I don't want to get too mushy here because I know she reads the blog, but there's something quite appropriate in her directing some of her lost sheep upward towards the heavens. It was a fitting acknowledgment of the mother we were honoring that day. Though Mary would tell me I'm goofy and read way too much into such things.
So I will start my week thinking about the amazing and remarkable community that has adopted me, and the equally impressive family I am lucky to have married into. While I might have been a reluctant transplant five years ago, I finally understand what a wonderful neighborhood can inspire people to do. Thank you, Beverly!