#83 My Racing Career

As a little girl in Massapequa, Long Island, I wanted to do everything my big brother did. When he needed glasses, I couldn’t wait not only to get glasses but some just like his. When he took tap lessons, I wanted to quit ballet and take tap lessons. There’s a picture of me in his tap shoes, hat and cane resembling a miniature Jimmy Durante. When my father beat him I thought I should be beaten too. Whenever he and his buddies went to the park across the street, I wanted to go along.

So when he signed up for a prize-winning contest of a big race with battery operated toy cars, I wanted to do that, even though I had never operated one of them. It was something every boy got for Christmas that year. The cars were not radio operated. They were run from a control you carried and a cord connected the car. The manufacturer or a local store probably sponsored the contest. My memory pictures them all like colorful sleek little Thunderbirds, but they came out the next year, or the next.

I had no business entering the race. I don’t know if I talked my parents into letting me try or if it was spur of the moment. I do know I had never touched one of those gizmos that every boy in the neighborhood had mastered easily running a slalom course. I was about six in a little dress holding one of the push button controls. Here I was with motor skills that had barely stopped spilling milk at dinner and I was going to make a car go around a track. There was something like traffic cones set out for each car to go through. Everyone started out at the same time as in a marathon. We might have been in a parking lot with a makeshift track. Though somehow it seems even now that it was a real track.

All the boys went out front and had long finished while I was still trying to get a handle on how to get it to go forward instead of right or left; Or to get it to go at all. If I missed a cone I’d painstakingly go back and try again. All of this is very strange because I was so deathly shy. Every child needs attention, but not being noticed was usually my MO. All I could think of was finishing.

I have a sharp memory of me not only coming in dead last, but also being out on the course long after the race was won, tears streaming down my face, but refusing to quit. I was out there alone in agony. Everyone watching was in agony. I don’t know how long it took for me to finally go forward. I think it even started to rain, or maybe that was the tears. They couldn’t announce the winner while I was still racing in reverse, something that I’m sure completely mortified a brother who already couldn’t stand my guts. He now had public proof that I was the idiot sister he had to endure. But after that day my identity split from his forever.

It wouldn’t be the last time I did something I had never tried. Want to write a play? Just do it. Want to start a business? Do it. Want to write a screenplay? Do it. Want to fly a plane? Do it. Usually it was a success, sometimes not. It’s that tenacity I’ve described as my best and worst quality. I still haven’t always quite gotten a handle on the controls. But then who does?

 

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