The public school in our town has a quarter-mile athletic track used by all the students from kindergarten through 12th grade. But everybody knows that the track's not really for the kids. Oh no. The track belongs to the moms like me who stay home with the kids. Every morning we deliver our children to their classrooms and then we go around and around and around in circles, savoring every step. It's a perfect metaphor for our collective lives. To an outsider we don't appear to be getting anywhere. But we are; we're just taking a circuitous route. At the very least, we're going nowhere together.
Walking shoes, white socks, black leggings, sweatshirt (in the winter), or baggy T-shirt (in the summer) is the outfit de rigueur. Dark glasses are recommended, but not required. Caps are good, too, especially the nondescript baseball variety. But only if you have straight hair. A baseball cap on me looks like haberdashery on a caribou. You can't really tell who's making fun of whom, but there sure is a lot of pointing and laughing going on between my hair and my hat.
Some of us listen to music on headphones. Some of us engage in light conversation, our version of commuter gab. The rest of us would rather walk alone, reclaiming the lost art of thinking. You know, that thing we used to do with our thoughts, before we had children.
OCCASIONALLY a brave-hearted man shows up, but we don't let him stand in our way. We just keep right on talking and walking and rocking, like we're the real planets and he's just some meteor passing through. The Mr. Mommy track this isn't. Eventually the guys give up and go to work.
I know someone who during the worst winter months goes around the track in a mink coat. It's not exactly politically correct, and it certainly isn't what you'd call a sports look, but I'm sure it's very toasty. The track is, after all, located several inches (on the Rand McNally map) above the Mason-Dixon line. She probably doesn't mind if we find her peculiar, so long as we don't hurl turnips at her head. (Come to think of it, hurling turnips would make us peculiar, wouldn't it?) The mink with the running shoes gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "warm-up suit." I imagine the weight of the coat does burn off a few more calories than a mere parka or windbreaker.
One very chilly early spring morning, I saw the mink mom walking around the track, followed by another woman who was wearing low black-leather heels, a shoulder bag, and a black wool coat over a business suit. The two of them looked as though they were vying for a grant from the Ministry of Silly Walks. After two laps, one of them hobbled off toward the train station and the other headed home.
Fortunately, it will be summer soon. Uniformity of dress will return, the one infraction being black shorts. (The preferred color is white.) Then the only thing I'll have to worry about is the humidity making my hair so big that the cap on my head explodes.