Anytime you’re part of an event where the central question is ‘what shall we wear on our heads?’, walk away. Look no further than Princess Beatrice if you don’t believe me. My participation in the Relay for Life on Saturday and Sunday was such an event, but I didn’t walk away, although I did walk, for 12 hours. Not straight of course, we took our turns. A great and worthy event, you’ll have no argument from me, but this is not my kind of scene. I have never been an extrovert, a cheerleader, a rah-rah kind of person. Cancer has touched my family deeply and harshly, as it has the closest of my friends, but that doesn’t make me a joiner. However, this time I joined and it wasn’t so bad. And no funny hats, although the possibility came up several times in our pre-event planning sessions.
Our theme was ‘Dreaming of a Cure’, and so naturally, our mascot was a sheep. My plastic garden sheep, who currently resides on the balcony, became for a day (and night) the mascot of hope. Never mind that I long ago doctored his face with an inexpertly painted set of teeth and a pair of bugged-out eyes. Now home, basking in the sun and memories of his participation in something worthwhile, my only wish is that the pigeons would respect his newly elevated station in life.
The walk itself was at Foote Field. It’s a well-known sporting facility, but being who I am, I’ve never set foot in Foote. The track was nice to walk on, and in fact the walking was quite pleasurable, either alone or in tandem with my friends. We ate well…someone ordered pizza (!), and there were snacks and heavily decorated sheep spilling out of our designated area, which seemed to attract a lot of photographers. Fun times. What was not fun was the cold.
When we got there around 5:30 pm, it was windy. Because our theme was ‘Dreaming of a Cure’ our team was dressed in flannel pajamas, which sounds warm…except that my pj’s were short-sleeved and capris cut, so even in the sun I was already cold. Having no experience with this sort of thing I did not pack enough clothes. A long-time Folk Fest attendee, I thought a fleece would be adequate. Nope. Not even close. By midnight I was frozen solid. Colder than I think I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’m talking full-on body tremours. In light of what many people in attendance had gone through, or were currently going through, I tried to ‘suck it up’, but the only thing that alleviated the shaking was to walk, and to take periodic dips into the Saville Centre to get warm.
By 3:00 am, the temperature was 4C, and that’s when the hallucinations began. Nothing major, just a bit of dodging the flat but slightly florescent track markers that would suddenly and inexplicably rise out of the ground in front of me. Even with some ambient lighting, it was pretty dark. Fellow walkers, if they were walking the opposite direction, startled me as they passed. It’s been a very, very long time since I stayed up all night long, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t strolling in a field in my pj’s.
By 5:00 am, breakfast was served, and I can honestly say I’ve never had a more righteous pancake, and the coffee, as bad as it was, was a revelation. When we walked out of the Saville Centre the sun was shining bright, and the vision of trees in full green splendour was a major brain fuck. It felt like I’d spent a night in bone-chilling winter, and to ‘wake up’ and see a beautiful spring day was monumentally confusing to my synapses. (If I were animated, little ’tilt’ signs would have appeared on my eyeballs.) Nevertheless, in spite of the cognitive dissonance we stumbled to our site, packed up our stuff, kicked a few sheep to the curb, and parted ways. At home, a righteous bubble bath in steaming hot water followed by a solid five hour sleep.
Thanks to all my sponsors, to the event organizers, to my friends and especially to my BFF, the Captain of our Dream Team, who showed an inspirational level of perseverance last night. You got some balls, girl. In spite of the sombre reasons for the existence of Relay For Life, it was a fun night, and I hope it raised a lot of money. But next year, a down-filled parka and snow pants.