It was not until I looked up and noticed everyone was staring at me that I realized I might be doing something unusual. I honestly did not intend to freak out the kids.
Actually I think they might have been staring at me for a while, but I am sometimes a little like Mr. Magoo. Especially when I am focused on a challenging task. So for the first part I was quite oblivious to the world around me.
These were teens – the oldest of them was probably 16. And here was me, 52.
Kids don’t hold back on their emotions. And everyone one of them – without exception – was gaping at me wide-eyed and slack-jawed.
That I didn’t notice them earlier was probably for the best. The shock on their faces now slammed into me. Was this a mistake? Had I really done something stupid this time? Why on Earth had I decided to do this anyway?
I shifted my feet and took a deep breath. My face was already red and hot from exertion, so my sudden flush of embarrassment didn’t show.
No, I wasn’t going to let myself be embarrassed. I gathered my courage and stared back at them. I was an adult and I could do this. Why were they so surprised? I moved my gaze slowly across their dumbstruck faces and I marveled at the sheer force of raw incredulity.
Adults will at least try to do the poker face thing, or maybe sneak a sideways glance.
But not kids.
I fought internally for another moment for my right to be there – to able to do what they did. I loved what I was doing. I wasn’t as good as the best of them, but I wasn’t that bad either. I might be “old,” but I felt so good.
Their astonishment really made me feel like a weirdo.
To her credit, Miss Katie the teacher (who just turned 20) conducted the class without any indication of anything unusual. She had gotten a bit of a heads up the week before that I was coming, although I am not sure she believed it. In the prior class, Miss Katie made the announcement that everyone should make sure their guests had releases that were signed by their parents.
My daughter perked up and said proudly “my guest won’t need a release.”
Miss Katie stood with her hands on her hips and tilted her head “why not?”
“Because it is my Mom who is coming,” my daughter chirped and skipped off with her blond ponytail bobbing high.
I love it that my daughter is into gymnastics. And I wanted to encourage her. If you are a parent you’re probably familiar with this old trick; let your kids teach you whatever it is that you are hoping to encourage them in.
Plus, I’ve always had the philosophy that if I did whatever my kids were into, I would probably stay in pretty good shape. So for the past two years my daughter had been ‘coaching’ me in gymnastics.
And she is a pretty good coach.
I had played around with gymnastics a little bit in high school and then as an elective in college. I had never competed or even done a show. I just enjoyed being able to do the skills. I loved the confidence I felt in my body. I loved the combination of strength, flexibility, and gracefulness it requires.
Like most physical abilities, I had let handstands fade into pleasant memories as I ‘matured.’ Oh I would do a cartwheel every now and then but I pretended not to notice that they were getting more wobbly as the years passed.
Through my daughter, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sports and fitness industry had evolved and grown in the years I ignored it while doing careering and then motherhood. Quite frankly, the things my daughter was learning and then teaching me were much better coaching than I ever had when I was younger.
And my overall health has been improving so much in recent years… I was delighted to find I was regaining old abilities and now beginning to surpass what I had done before. With excellent nutrition and quality ‘real’ food, my muscles, bones, and sinews work smoothly. I recover from injuries more quickly. My skin is elastic, and I just feel great. The garden and livestock have brought me so much joy. This new found athletic ability is just one more amazing surprise of the journey I am on.
When my daughter’s gym class had a ‘bring a guest’ night, it didn’t seem strange to either of us that I should attend.
On this night I had come to class especially to see the vault. My daughter and I usually do floor exercises in our living room. We move all the furniture aside and annoy the cat by kicking her off her spot on the rug.
If the weather is nice, we try to find an area in the barnyard that is clear of chicken poop. 🙂
And we’ve also built some make shift equipment out of cow panels, 2x4s, and cinder blocks.
But my daughter really loves vaulting. Naturally, it is the most expensive piece of equipment (sigh) and we didn’t have anything close to it at home. So I came this night especially to get a closer look at the vault. Was it something we could duplicate from stuff in the resource (a.k.a. junk) pile?
Surely in all of Home Depot’s inventory a vault could be made… Or, would I have to troll Craig’s list in the hopes of finding equipment from parents of some other teenage girl who suddenly dropped that interest?
So there I stood in line with the other kids, breathing hard, and glad that there were a few ahead of me so I could rest for a minute. Miss Katie had set up a complex circuit for us to do. First we had to run the length of the gym and jump up on the vault. After the dismount, we did a handstand and then had to jump up onto some high foam blocks to build leg strength. Then we ran and did a dive forward roll. Then we went onto the tumble track to do some plank jumps until we ended up back in line again to do it all over again.
I mentally started counting back, gave up, and then resorted to using my fingers. Hmm, let’s see, it must be at least 28 years since I had jumped on a vault. It was good I hadn’t noticed the kids staring at me earlier as my first couple of jumps I either over-jumped or under-jumped trying to get the feel of the springboard.
At first, before this circuit, we had been doing some stretching, cartwheels, handstands, and other basic stuff. I had tucked myself at the end of the row out of the way. I was focusing on doing the exercises as well as I could and didn’t think much about what was going on around me.
I did have a really awkward moment during the warm up period. Of all the things we had been doing, the ‘going backwards’ stuff had been the most difficult for me. And you have to be able to do a backbend to be able to do a handspring. The kids definitely had an advantage in not spending decades sitting hunched over a computer. I felt so awkward when Miss Katie saw me struggling and came to spot me while I attempted a back walkover. I am not overweight, but certainly heavier than the girls she normally safeguards. Miss Katie is a slight young woman. I was embarrassed that my weight was just a bit more than Miss Katie could handle. Being spotted is an intimate physical thing with muscles on muscles, bones and skin, hot breath, and sweat. And Miss Katie really struggled to bear my clumsy upside down weight.
But I got over it. I didn’t quite do the backspring and we agreed I could work on that another time. And now we were going round and round in the gym in the open on this circuit Miss Katie set up for us.
And it was while I had this short breather – before I went to run the circuit again – is the first time I noticed that all the kids were gawking at me.
OMG. It was my turn again. I took a deep breath and raced towards the vault with full awareness now that every eye in the room was on me.
Oh well, I didn’t do too badly.
A few more laps round the circuit, and then Miss Katie announced that we were going to the balance beam.
This was an advanced class. The school offered beginning, intermediate, advanced, and then competitive. And despite having guests of unknown abilities, Miss Katie just went right on with her scheduled advanced activities. So we all headed to the balance beams, spacing ourselves a few feet apart for the jumps and turns we would practice.
I was really nervous now, knowing that I was under better surveillance than FBI or CIA could ever hope for. But it was way too late to do anything but try my best. Besides, this balance beam was much wider and more stable than the 2×4 and cinder blocks we used at home.
Miss Katie demands focus when the class is on the beam. She got a lot stricter. This is a lot more dangerous so no side talking or giggling is tolerated. We were given instructions. And Miss Katie went into “full class drama” in that if anyone messed up and fell off the beam, we would all have to start over.
OK, I’ll totally admit I had a rush of relief when other girls fell off and it wasn’t me.
When Miss Katie turned her back, I noticed my daughter helping a known wobbler to stay on the beam so we all wouldn’t suffer.
Actually, I was pretty good on the beam. A lot of my backyard food production systems are setup to require me to balance a bit. I like to practice this skill so I intentionally designed it that way. For example, I have narrow boards between my vegetable beds, and I challenge myself by walking and squatting only on them while tending my plants. There is some footage of that garden in my presentation at the 2015 Home Grown Food Summit.
The one boy, who was also a guest (a brave boyfriend of one of the girls), bowed out of the balance beam activities. Apparently the beam is a girls-only thing. He totally wowed us though when he got on the unoccupied tumble track. He did a series of handsprings building up his speed to culminate in an incredible forward flip.
And before I could stop the thought, I found myself thinking, “I want to be able to do that.”
Could I ever do those backbends? What is the limit to what I can do? Or you? I feel so good and I have such faith in the ability of the human body to regenerate and heal. Eating well and gentle exercise. Growing your own food, taking responsibility for your health – these things really do work. I know that many are struggling to defeat disease. You might be thinking, “I have done so much already. Can I possibly do more?”
At the end of the class we gave high fives and congratulations. We were all thoroughly exhausted, with the glow that a great workout gives you. I don’t think the teens were so freaked out by the end of it.
But I did worry… You know? What did they really think?
The next week I went to the gym to pick up my daughter after her class. I was a little nervous as I opened the door. I was worried, would they avert their eyes and whisper amongst themselves, “Oh, here comes that weirdo Mom.” Or whisper in each others’ ears, “What is she doing here?” Or would they gossip with each other, “You know she couldn’t do a backbend and Miss Katie almost dropped her.”
The whole class and Miss Katie were standing in the foyer sipping from water bottles and chatting. They all turned to look at me when I entered. And relief flooded through me when I saw their genuine welcoming grins and heard joyful “hellos” of recognition.
And then I was on top of the world when one of the girls said to me, “You should join our class.”
Oh did I feel great!
I gave a big smile and replied with enthusiasm, “Oh, I would love to!”
I was immediately torn with regret as I continued, “but you know we don’t come into town often. And when my daughter is here doing gymnastics, I am at the skate park with my son. I am building up the skills to drop into the big bowl.”
Yup, it is true. I am getting back into skateboarding again. And I am getting much better than the video I did a few years ago (See the video here – Age Reversing: Regaining The Balance & Flexability Of A Teenager). Despite their ‘outlaw’ reputation, I have found the Skateboard Nation to be a really cool group of kids. And, yeah, that is another group of teens that I have freaked out. But that is another story.
See what kind of fun you can have when you grow your own food?
Be sure to subscribe to the [Grow] Network to get notified on my progress balancing on four tiny wheels while zooming at impossibly high speeds and heights on harsh, unforgiving concrete. I do plant to get some video up within the next few months. Oh yes, and doing backbends too. Whoot, whoot!
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