I was driving across town wallowing in the depths of my own long-standing, largely undiagnosed depression when I received a text from my daughter, “what are you wearing?” I double checked the sender, and yes it was Holland.
“My work clothes.”
Twenty minutes later, I was at the Double Down Cheer Banquet in full compliance with the no jeans, no shorts dress code. Admittedly, I looked at the well dressed attendees, announced at 450, with a measure of WTF? Why are we all dressed up, and what are they gonna do to entertain me over the next three hours?
I was served homemade pasta with unlimited parmesan cheese and coke. Bright start.
I spent forty minutes sitting among people I don’t know while Holland caught up with teammates and tried really hard to look comfortable. About expected.
Holland returned and we watched a twenty minute photo slide show that featured two iconic images of Holland. Proud moment.
The speeches began and continued for two hours. There was a common theme of hard work and perseverance resulting in personal and team success. As the coaches moved to individual awards, I found myself at attention and scanning the crowd to see if I could see the next heroic lioness being described. Two girls hobbled on stage with crutches. Another put off surgery to complete the season. Some were tall and sturdy, others best described as frail.
Throughout the night “Cheer for Caitlin” was cheered and seen on shirts. Caitlin missed the banquet. She couldn’t beat cancer. She was five. Her mother and surviving sister (on crutches) were on stage near the end. Caitlin’s mom served my pasta. She didn’t speak long. She didn’t need to. She was thankful for the support the gym had given her family in this unimaginably difficult time. It was raw and real, and spoke to the value of connectedness.
I was happy to share the night with Holland and Double Down as they brought closure to a season measured better in the self-esteem gained together in the gym, slowly, fall by fall, building their cheer skills, than in trophies and medals. It is a communal path to self-esteem and needed to be concluded in community.