I know every year I go on and on about how much I love Fall. But I can't help myself, really. It's like a weeks long sunset, the earth preparing for a season of rest, and a master Artist has splashed everything in hues of colors that bathe me in joy. I keep hearing whispers to "Stop and Rest...Breathe". And I try. I leave dishes in the sink, and clean laundry waiting on the couch, and I go outside. But then the days strap me in and take me for another ride, and sometimes it's all I can do to keep up. A few weeks ago, I took the kids out of school and we took an epic road trip to Telluride, (14+ hours of driving in two days!) because we just needed to.
Yesterday, Chloe had her black belt sparring test. She's only ten, the youngest in her group of candidates, and skinny. Chloe dislikes sparring, and has been so nervous about her testing that she's crawled in bed with me at night to gather warmth and comfort like a blanket. She looked small and vulnerable on the mat, her only protection headgear and gloves. The rules were that she had to fight for 12 minutes straight, facing fresh opponents every couple of minutes, and at the end, two attackers at a time. The opponents were all boys, and two men. The boys danced on the side, chomping at the bit in eagerness, all of them towering over Chloe, wearing full safety gear, and obviously enjoying the idea of sanctioned fighting. And then they started, the boys in turn rushing out onto the mat, all swinging arms and kicking legs.
The two other girls fighting for their black belts took the onslaughts by backing away, and by the end, their nervous grins had turned into unshed tears, and we were all clapping and cheering, and straining for them to finish, to not give up, to keep fighting, whether they were our child or not.
I saw Chloe whispering to her instructor to please let her take her turn early, before I had to leave to get Aidan from cello. Chloe met the boys with a fierce rush of her own. She began spinning and dancing out of the way, dodging their flailing arms, then darting in to counterattack. Twice she nearly knocked a boy down with a hard kick to the chest, and their unbridled enthusiasm turned into a more cautious advance. My baby girl is a fierce little warrior. Her headgear was knocked off multiple times, and her loose hair began to cover her face like a screen, but she kept going, taking shots to the head and ribs, over and over again, but giving it all right back. She would dodge out and then come back in with a spinning back sweep to their legs.
Towards the end, Chris and I were standing, not caring that we were yelling loud enough to hear in Texas, only that we were loud enough for her to hear. As the final countdown began, Chloe ducked and weaved between the two attackers, then grabbed the boy's arm and used him as a shield to absorb the punches from the man. When she finished, standing there red faced and sweaty, she had earned the respect of everyone in the room and high praise from her instructors, who were proud both of her courage, and her physical conditioning.
That's my girl.