After the trophy awards I make sure I snap a picture of her holding her trophy As we drive her home from her meets her sisters get to hold her trophy, pass it around. They love it, they beam as if they had just won it themselves.
Sometimes I drive her straight back to her mothers’ house. Parked in the driveway, I set the trophy on the dash and take a handful of picture of it rotating the camera at different angles. Someday, we will make a collage of April and her trophies. For now we have the memories of her doing her “gymnast salute” while holding her trophy up high, her medals hanging from her neck.
Her mother has only been to 4 Saturday practices in 6 years (and on two of those occasions it was simply to keep me from picking up our daughter from gymnastics), and never has she stayed for the duration of the practices.
Christy had rarely attended April’s gymnastics meets in the past. Only recently has she been attending with any kind of semi-regularity and displayed any desire to attend her meets, most-assuredly because we had pending court hearings. I had to file a court action two years ago when Christy, again, was not allowing me to see April.
April is an excellent gymnast and has amassed a huge collection of hard-earned trophies and numerous ribbons. Not one at our home. They are all at her mother’s house. A while ago, after one of the many meets where Christy had not attended, we drove home to our home in La Quinta. It was a 3-day weekend. April of course had placed, first, second or third, I forget which one but, she had received a trophy. The meets are the same year after year. There is the Pajama meet, The Aerials Meet, the Crystal meet..etc. Sometimes the trophies are the same year to year. This one was the same as last years. Malia, Jaida and Sophie celebrate along with April when she receives a trophy. It’s cute to see them take pictures with them. Even now when Malia and Jaida themselves are competing and earn their own trophies, they still get a kick out of their big sister’s trophies.
Malia and Jaida had started to amass their own little collection of trophies and ribbons. We have a shelf in the toy room just for that. On this particular 3 day weekend, one of the girls asked if April could place her trophy next to where theirs were in the toy room. April didn’t seem have a problem with it and agreed without giving it a second thought, saying that she already has a trophy just like that one at home. I placed April’s trophy right in the middle of Malia and Jaida’s trophies.
Christy called on Sunday asking when April would be home. I reminded her that it was a 3-day weekend and braced myself for her response. It has always been the norm for Christy at this time, to recite all the reasons why “that won’t work” and April needed to be home. She has homework. She didn’t clean her room. She has laundry to do. She needs to refill the Guinea pig’s bowl with water.
I stayed silent for a while gaging what kind of mood Christy was in and at the same time wondering if maybe would could go up a day early and visit my sister. I decided to tell her how well April did at her meet and avert her attention from her pathology. The diversion worked. Christy forgot about the urgency of having April home that Sunday, but then she asked about what place she came in. But unfortunately drew her attention to April’s trophies.
“Okay, well you can keep her for another day, I guess,” then she added, “but don’t forget to bring my little trophies home.” She actually said, my little trophies.
On Monday, I snuck into the toy room and grabbed April’s trophy. I have learned to pick my battles.
I have never complained about not having any of April’s trophies at our home. I am not complaining now. If April ever won a Gold Medal Christy could have it to show her friends. I don’t need to display them to know my daughter is a champion with a heart of gold.
I don’t get to hang up her ribbons and trophies on the walls of our home alongside her 2 sister’s ribbons and trophies. But that’s ok, I don’t need them. That doesn’t matter to me.
Because what I do have is this:
I have countless memories, digital and mental photographs and movies of her growth, challenges, and gymnastics accomplishments.
I have the countless times that she has looked up at me when she has nailed a move, stuck a landing, or just because I am her father and I am there.
I have the photographs and fond memories of her with her gymnastics friends.
What bothers me isn’t even that her Christy says that the reason that her trophies and ribbons all belong with her mother in her home is that my home is not April’s real home. My home is only a place she visits, her mother repeatedly says.
What seems monumentally wrong to me, what I know to be wrong with every cell of my being is that after years of hearing this, our daughter now believes it to be true.
April says that she has one real home-her mother’s home and that she visits us only because she has to.
And now she doesn’t even have to do that.