A FAIR TRADE
For my 13th birthday, I was promised a trip to the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics. This was like the childhood pony: a swell thing to say but something that never was even remotely possible. Divorce. Changed circumstances. I listened to Bob Schul win the 5,000 meters on the radio.
For my daughter's 21st birthday, I promised her a trip to the Olympics. And for three days in the first week of the Games, she had her childhood pony. She made the trek up to Cypress Mountain to see snowboard cross, but I suspect she did that to propitiate the gods of winter; she was much happier indoors, watching the men in Hockey Place. She is a Russophile. She never bothered trying to get tickets for Canada or Team USA, her two countries, but went as hard at Alex Ovechkin as Ovechkin went at Jaromir Jagr in the preliminary-round game against the Czechs. Of her four games, Russia played two.
Maybe she will come to understand the birthday gift was meant as much for me as for her. Rather than a rheumy view shaped by what are now 16 Olympics, I could refract Vancouver 2010 through the prism of my road buddy. She stepped off the plane in a long-sleeved T-shirt emblazoned with the rings. She traded for an Albanian Olympic pin, which couldn't have been more precious to her if it had been encrusted with rubies. She chanted with Slovak fans. She told me how to say "Sit down" in Russian to a flag-waving family that was obscuring the view from the press seats. For her, the five rings composed a whirling merry-go-round and not the world's most successful commercial symbol. She sprinkled pixie dust on Vancouver. I'm guessing hers was closer to Pierre de Coubertin's original vision of the Olympics than any NBC soft-focus profile.
The hockey tournament, of course, was spectacular. But that gold-medal match was no match for three Olympic days when my grown-up girl helped keep a promise made to a boy a long time ago.