Derby Pining

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Like anyone, I enjoy success. As I watch my son venture into ever more competitive spheres, I see it’s an early universal -children anticipate success.

I observe his eyes and posture as his car trickles in an unimpressive initial run. Confusion. No panic though. As he nibbles a cuticle he’s probably contemplating all the planning that culminated in this car.

Two runs later and the results are genuinely, unequivocally, bad. The elegant and abstract means one nurtures to measure success become irretrievably remote in the crude, hard immediacy of that moment the car straggles in. But the boy is holding up.

I’m in a state of mystery. Maybe I should have made extra time to take it to be tuned at that specialty shop? We wanted to take it for a trial run, if for no other reason than to extend the experience. Alas, other opportunities intervened. Anyway, while not prodigious, I do have some show of skill in the garage. We had researched and worked together and were fairly certain our entry should be at least solid. And solid seemed enough when he and I stepped in to reconnoiter the specialty shop, panned, and observed we hadn’t the means, inclination, nor perhaps aptitude to assemble a truely elite entry. Liberation. I’ve been long enough down rabbit holes to know one when I see it.

Another dismal trip down the track and he’s detached. Not from the race -he’s cheering on others- but from his own results. For my part I’m experiencing a disorienting mix of pride and regret. I’m sure we shared the anticipation. Entering the match our mood was respectable. I was confident our work was worthy of that. It must have let him down a little. Were that the case, he hadn’t let on. My analytical mind reeled, but my conscience recognized His demeanor was paramount. Still, I was mystified. What gnawed most (we had not expected to win) was that I had no earthly explanation for this dud. On paper it was adequate.

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Just then the car won a heat. He was happy. He addressed me for the first time since it started. Outwardly I returned his enthusiasm, but the twist only compounded my confusion. I lost my composure. Aloud I answered a look, “I don’t know why!”

Two more heats turned in tremendous times (for our field). The first he celebrated, the second he ignored entirely in favor of a ball. The elegant and abstract measures of success seemed attainable again. In fact, while he certainly wouldn’t be handed any hardware, the results could hardly have been better.

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