Outside In

My daughter Grace had just finished up a pint of her all-time favorite comfort food: mac ‘n’ cheese from Texas Honey Ham.

Overstuffed, and in a carb coma, she moaned from the sofa, “Mom, I need to move. Will you go on a run with me?”

I am not an evening exercise person. I am a get up, grab coffee, out-the-door morning girl. But I love to run. And more than that, I love time with Grace, especially if she is requesting my company. Anyone who has raised or is raising teenagers knows when it comes to quality time, take what you can get when you can get it. So even though I had already gone running earlier that day, I suited up again.

I remember “running” with Grace when she was young. This meant a high-speed sprint for about 50 yards, followed by slow walking, whining, and complaining about the heat and feeling itchy. I was not prepared for this new Grace, who kept a strong and steady pace, even on hills. “We can walk if you want?” I sputtered on a doozy of a climb. “Nah, I’m good,” she smiled, tossed her long ponytail, and soldiered on. I reminded myself that this was much healthier than being at home and having a nice, well earned glass of wine at the end of a full day.

“So, Mom. What do you want to talk about?” she asked me as we cruised through the neighborhood.

“Whatever you want to talk about,” I wheezed. When did she become as tall as me? How are her legs this long?

“Let’s talk about my life plan,” she said. “Let’s do,” I agreed. This should be good. She talks and I listen, plus, maybe she will slow down?

“So, I’m going to play lacrosse in high school, and get really good grades and probably get a scholarship. Then I’m going to go to UCSB. Eventually I want to live in Hope Ranch so I can have a nice house, be close to the beach, and have a horse. So, like, what job could afford that?”

I thought for a second. “Hope Ranch is pretty expensive, so you will need a really good job if you want to live there.”

“Okay. I’ll be a doctor. But I don’t like blood or gross stuff, so maybe I’ll be a skin doctor, a dermis-something.”

“Dermatologist?” I smiled, chugging along beside her.

“Yeah, that. Okay, so I will go to medical school. Probably at USC or UCLA. Then I will open a practice in Santa Barbara, which is going to be awesome. You can get free treatments so you don’t look all old. I will hire great people and never have to work on Friday. I’ll have two horses and lots of dogs. One day I will go running on the beach and run into a hot guy I used to like in college, and he will go, ‘Hey, whoa Grace is that you?’ And I’ll be like, ‘Yeah,’ and we will run and talk and fall in love and then go to the courthouse in our running clothes and get married. We’ll have cute kids and you can watch them while I work and me and my hot husband go out and have fun. And I’ll live a long time, happily ever after, the end.”

“Wow, honey. That sounds amazing. I love your life. I wonder what Isabelle will be doing?”

“Oh she will totally live in the shack behind my house. She will still be my maid.”

I stopped running and doubled over with laughter. Isabelle, her twin sister, is the total neat freak who really does clean up after Grace’s pigpen mess that trails in a constant wake behind her.

What a gift to run and laugh with my girl, to hear her plans and listen to her dreams. To just be beside her, matching her pace, and acknowledging that she really is growing up. And that fact needs to stop surprising me. What if I missed that run? What if I had no time or inclination to go outside and play? Conversations are different outside. They are different when you are doing something active, looking straight ahead instead of directly at each other.

Maybe the best part about being outside is that it takes us outside ourselves.


Illustration by Joy Gallagher

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