by Lee Waldman
Our family has grown quite large over the last four years with two married daughters and my step-daughter in a serious relationship as well. All now have extended families and coupled with that is confusion and conflict around the holidays. Where to go to keep everyone happy? Two years ago my wife and I realized that we were driving ourselves and our children crazy by making them choose with whom and where to spend that time. And so we came up with what we thought was an elegant solution. We now celebrate Thanksgiving on the Sunday before. No worries about eating two big meals on one day, or being in two places at the same time. My typically reticent daughters are now thrilled to come to my house and celebrate knowing that they don’t need to be continually looking at their watches. Traditions are made to enable us to celebrate the special things in life, not to stress over them. But, they can be changed.
And, as we were enjoying this newly minted tradition, my oldest daughter reminded me of another tradition that she and I had created when she was still in middle school. We were bike race promoters together. Looking back on it now, with her married and expecting my first grandchild, that was one of the most special times she and I ever spent together.
When I first started racing cyclocross in Colorado, the scene wasn’t what it is now. There were few promoters and one third of the number of races that we now have. I had the time, I had the interest, I had the location, so I decided to start promoting races. The two things that I didn’t have were experience and a staff. But, not being the type of person to ever let details stand in the way of decisions, I decided to start putting on cyclocross races anyway (those of you who have been racing cyclocross in Colorado for a long time might remember the races at Chatfield Reservoir). I bought some flags (we marked courses in those days with red and blue flags, red for “right” and blue for “left”), got myself a scythe to cut down the biggest of the weeds, had a friend build me a few barriers and I was in business. It was, to put it in simplest terms, a very low budget operation.
That’s where Seren, my daughter, comes in. I knew that I could design a course, flag it, and have it ready to go when riders arrived. What I couldn’t do was handle registration and course prep at the same time. Although I was racing on a fairly large team, few of them raced cyclocross and even fewer expressed any desire to wake up in the dark , stick flags into frozen ground and then stand around all day feeling their fingers and toes become increasingly more frozen. They were happy to show up and marshall, even to stick around for tear-down, but the morning of the race and all the days leading up to the races, were my responsibility.
And so Seren and I struck a deal. For the gigantic sum of $50.00 and a hot chocolate on the way home, she became my partner. Remember, she was then in middle school and if you’ve ever had middle school aged children, or if you remember when you were that age, early mornings are not necessarily your best time. Nevertheless, Seren woke up with no complaints, in the dark, in the cold, and clambered into the car to help me out.
The course we used was across town so our drive was in the dark. We were, however, treated to some beautiful sunrises watching the sun rise over the reservoir that bordered our venue. Some mornings we surprised deer, one day we watched from a bluff as an eagle flew by us at eye level. Weather didn’t matter. Seren dressed for it. If it was particularly frigid, she sat in the car while I set the course.
Some weeks I had an extra person to help her with registration. If not, I had to trust her to handle it on her own, and she did. We never lost money, she never became flustered no matter how confused the riders were or how demanding they could be. Maybe it was because she was just so damned cute handling so much responsibility on her own; possibly it was because she was so mature. Either way, we became a partnership.
As she grew older there were many things we argued about and times when we couldn’t be in the same room together. The bond that we created in the pre-dawn darkness every Autumn was one experience that kept all the threads between us from breaking apart completely. One of the saddest moments of my life was Seren’s freshman year in college. She was living in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and couldn’t come down to help me anymore. The tradition ended, but the memories have never faded. Seren and I still have our “days” but the connection that we forged then is one that supersedes the conflicts that we may have.
Traditions are important, not only around the holidays, but every day.
Eat some turkey and then go ride your bike.