By: Sandra Mitchell
The girl’s father puts his hand on her shoulder and gently nudges her forward. She hesitates, reticent, and smiles politely. She lifts her eyes beneath lashes that look like they are lifted from a Maybelline ad “Can she get a picture with you?”
It is her dad’s voice. I am at Dodger Stadium, seated behind a table with a flapping blue banner proclaiming: CBS 2 KCAL 9. There is a cluster of people waiting for an autograph or a chance to share their story.
“Of course!” I answer…”what’s your name?”
“Emily” she says.
Emily, I learn, is 11 years old. The same fragile age as my own daughter. I ease out from behind the table to pose for the picture. Before I get to Emily, her father’s hand reaches out again. This time, he is nudging me….just long enough to whisper in my ear.
“She lost her mom to cancer.” My stomach lurches.
On this foggy Saturday morning, Dodger Stadium looks like a bottle of Pepto Bismol exploded, drenching people and objects in pink. Today is the 16th annual Susan G. Komen Race for the cure. Fifteen thousand people have gathered on this expanse of cracked concrete to honor those who have died fighting breast cancer, to support those still going through treatment . . .and to celebrate those who have kicked cancer’s butt!
At the starting line, I feel the frisson. The man beside me is wearing a pink sequined bra, a neon pink afro and a smile that could power the lights of the stadium.
Cancer is such an ugly disease, but on this day, I see silliness and beauty. Beautiful words scrawled on pink paper and pinned to the participants’ backs.
“I walk in memory of Iris Green….Best Mom Ever!”
“I walk in honor of my best friend….love you Ginny!”
“I walk for my mommy.” reads the sign attached to a stroller. The baby snuggled inside not even old enough to have his first tooth.
For the second time this morning, my emotions stumble.
Later, after the race, I report to the CBS 2 and KCAL 9 booth. It is then that I meet Emily and her dad. I want to tell her that she is beautiful, that her mommy loved her. I want to reach out and hug her. Instead, I put my arm awkwardly around her shoulder. “Smile!” her dad says and I do, hoping in the picture, they won’t detect the tears in my eyes.