Google+ Badge

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Three Amigos -- and the Lessons of Friendship

THE THREE AMIGOS OF NEWBURGH – this time last week, we, which is to say the LoBiondo Family and our rowing family, were on our way to Philadelphia. We were headed to the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta (“HOSR”), the largest one day rowing regatta in the world, with over 6,000 competitors from 26 countries. We put in some novice crews and some more experienced crews, with varying results. This course is so long and so technically difficult, that it is frightening every time you see your kids’ boat go out of sight. Every time we go to Philadelphia to row, we may or may not come home with medals but we always come home significantly wiser. This trip was no exception.

Last Sunday was a chilly autumn day on the beautiful Schuylkill River but certainly not the worst weather we’ve seen. At HOSR 2011, we encountered the tail end of the freak Halloween snowstorm. It was so cold, Christian was in both a coxysuit (the equivalent of a thermal ski suit) and had a full ski mask on. He looked like a tiny Alpine bank robber. When we went to Philly in Summer of 2012 for the Independence Day Regatta, it was well over 100 degrees with no shade. By the end of the 10-hour day, I was so hot, I laid down in a pile of dirt, thinking that it might cool me down. It did not, but I was too exhausted and dehydrated to care.

Our Philly weekend started out on Friday night. Soup and Kelvin went to practice at the Newburgh Rowing Club, then slept over at LoBiondoFork, so we could get an early start. We met up with Kayla at the Boathouse, went out to Goshen to be on YNN TV, then came back to get the rest of the gang and make the trek to Philly. Mr. Lo drove, with me in the passenger seat, our two kids, Christian and Michael, and our rowing kids, Soup, Kelvin, and Kayla distributed around the gear in the Crew Mom mobile. The seven were pretty weary by the time we checked into the Team Hotel. But we perked right up when it was time for dinner. We headed out for Philly cheesesteaks (yes, they are as good as they say), some Halloween parade fun, and frozen yogurt. Hashtag Goodtimes.

Then it was time to hit the hay. Soup, Kelvin and Christian (The Three Amigos) had the room next door to us. There were over 20 rowers and their families at the hotel and the kids were mostly hanging out, shooting the breeze, in the Three Amigos’ Room. I kept going next door to shoo everyone out and get everyone to go to sleep. Kelvin had the earliest race, his first dock check in was at 7:20 am. He was in a Rec Single. Soup was racing at 11:30 am. Christian thought he was going to cheer on his friends, but when it turned out one of the rowers in the 8+ was injured, the coaches tapped him to row, but he didn’t know that then. The boys were just in their glory, enjoying each other’s company and the magnificent view. Although it was a very inexpensive room, somehow there were floor to ceiling windows with a killer view of the Philadelphia skyline.

Finally, it was time to get serious. All right, guys, I said, this is the last time Mrs. Lo is coming in here. The next time you get a knock on the door, it’s going to be from Big Coach. Complete Silence. OK then, I’m taking Kelvin over at 6:30 am, you guys don’t have to be there until 7:30 am, so do you want to ride over with someone else?

They looked at me, dumbfounded. “No, no, Miss L, get me up too, I want to put Kelvin’s boat in for him,” said Soup. I looked at Christian: this is your bye week from football, are you sure you don’t want to sleep in? “No way, Mom, I didn’t come here to sleep, I want to check over Kelvin and Soup’s boats for them.” As an experienced coxswain, Christian has the ability to check over all the boats and determine if they’re properly rigged and whether the foot stretchers are ideally positioned, that type of thing. This is something he wanted to do for his friends.

The next morning, Race Day, sure enough, I knocked on the door at 5:45 am, they all got up, and they were all downstairs and ready to go at 6:30 am. So was Kayla. As I drove them over to the Regatta, I looked around at them. I remembered the first time I met Soup and Kelvin, when they became part of the first class of Student Ambassadors in Fall of 2010. Johnny Kennedy was showing them how to use an ergometer. Now look at them, rowing in the same Regatta that Olympians were going to participate in.

The boys got Kelvin’s rec single in the water and I waited nervously in the cold for him to come down the course. What if 5 miles in a single is too much for him? What if he’s too cold to row? What is his hands freeze up? What if, what if? When I saw him coming down the course, I went crazy screaming his name. Rowers will tell you, they can’t hear what their parents are screaming at them from shore, it’s just too far away, they just hear a general din. But Kelvin heard me loud and clear, and looked up at me. Then I sprinted. While you can’t outrun a crew shell, in this case I could cut him off at the pass. I could hear in my head the hundreds of times Kelvin and Tito and Soup and Fiscal and Big L said, “I got you Miss L,” meaning they would carry my boat or my oars or my groceries or even Michael for me. I saw Kelvin’s baby face from when he was in 6th grade with the chubby cheeks. I remembered Big Coach teaching him to swim. I remember the first time he and Soup rowed at Kingston, they kept banging into the docks trying to get out. Now look at him, heading toward the Finish line at Head of the Schuylkill. All the things we had all been through together. All the practices, the meets, the barbecues at my house. All the nay-sayers. And then the tears started streaming down my face.

When they announced that Kelvin had taken the Bronze Medal, I really started bawling. I wanted to get him onto the Winner’s Podium to accept his medal but he wouldn’t budge. “It’s OK, Miss L, I don’t care about the medal, I want to get Dajour’s boat in the water.” And once Soup’s Mixed Double was in, Kelvin still wouldn’t move until Soup’s boat was back in. That’s a very long process. I knew we had a good hour or more, they make them row up to the start and then wait, before they come down. I told Kelvin I would go and get his medal. So I did. He took it and he zipped it into my jacket pocket. “Here, Miss L, this is for you.” I fought back the tears. “Oh no, Kelvin, this is for you,” I said, and I put it around his neck.

Then Christian, who had just rowed 5 miles despite not having been in a boat since July, sauntered by. “Oh hey, I’ll take that,” he said. Christian loves his hardware. Kelvin let Christian wear his Bronze Medal for the rest of the day. Then the three of them were off, to the food tent, the medals podium, the Under Armour tent, to socialize with other rowers. They were like kids in a candy store, all the while good naturedly ribbing each other the way only those 3 can.

I know everybody thinks I’ve done so much for the Student Ambassadors and in a sense, I have. But what they have given back to me and to my family, is immeasurable and intangible. Michael speaks Spanish with a Newburgh accent and his favorite restaurant is Los Portales. Christian has a rangy self confidence amongst other kids from the City of Newburgh, including his fellow football players, that comes from being one of the Three Amigos. He also has the drive of a kid who wakes up on Liberty Street every morning, looks out the window and says to himself, “education is my ticket out of here.” Seriously, my kid is driven the way that other kids of lawyers are not. We do not push him at all. We don’t need to, he pushes himself to the brink with academics and sports all by himself. His role models are kids who got themselves full scholarships to elite private boarding schools and high schools and who excel at rowing, football, and soccer. My kid’s inspiration, his role models, are Student Ambassadors.

I just finished writing the Grant application to the HRIF for this year’s Student Ambassador program. I posted a picture of the box containing it on facebook, it contains 700 pages and weighs 10 lbs. I’m praying we get the Grant so I can keep this program going. I asked the Student Ambassadors to write essays in support. I could sit and read their handwritten essays all day. Every single one of them says the same thing, in one form or another: Crew is my family, and the Boathouse is my second home. And really, I couldn’t have said it any better. You guys are our family too.

Have a great day, everyone, and Remember to Count Your Blessings!  Mrs. Lo
 — with Kelvin Vidals and 3 others atThomas Eakins Head of the Schuylkill Regatta.