Speaking the language of the djembe, learning how to play guitar, and becoming fluent in ASL are all good goals, but they are future-stuff (hopefully near), and I’m not yet very good at any of them.
Whereas it finally hit me that today, and each day, I can dress for the shirt-continuing-to-cover-my-chest-properly execution of a cartwheel, front walkover, round-off, or even flip-flop (well, this last one after I get back in shape).
I can walk upside down, stand on my head, and tumble between camper and laundry room any old day. I do believe I will resurrect the gymnastics-as-transportation habit this very afternoon.
My dad used tumbling as transport all through college. I was also a regular gymnastic traveler until about age fourteen. What happened?
I started dressing for boys, protecting fragile hairdos, holding my body in that particular way that now saddens me when I see the too-young girls doing it. I guess I expected attention from boys would be more fun than hanging out upside down half the day.
Then I forgot about hallway/sidewalk/anywhere tumbling completely.
I Kept hanging about hoping to attract boys (not a well thought out plan really, when I look back and think about all the cool things I could have been doing instead, like jamming on a djembe, learning to play guitar, or gaining a valuable skill like a working knowledge of ASL), and generally becoming duller by the effort.
Eventually, I was no longer all of me, instead hiding the important, fragile bits, creating a veritable stage show I pretended was real. Some of it was, but not enough.
I grew up, as some of us are lucky enough to do, discovered looks were a false gauge to determine future or even present happiness, that I needed to grow in maturity as well as bodily, and set about to get my mind and spirit in line with my new and liberating understanding.
I spent a lot of time alone.
I hadn’t forgotten fences, a steady companion in childhood, so ran my fingers numb along metal borders all over Chicago, watching my knuckles bounce to a rhythmless beat as I walked to and from work, to the cafe, the train, Lake Michigan. But I was still thoughtlessly right-side up most of the time, save the rare occasion I was at the park with other people’s children, showing off, and teaching the little ones a few tricks.
Some time later, I married. Soon after I was “mom” and my hands were blissfully full.
I was going to be the great exercising mother, my gym the outdoors, where baby and I would walk for miles every day. My first toddler disliked strollers, and thought each walk should include a thorough investigation of every tree, rock, bush, and flower. Sadly, I never got into the groove of the nature walk so this became daddy’s domain. By the time our second child was born, I was, other than when doing housework, mostly sitting down.
Habits form easily.
The boys are now eight and eleven, and I still haven’t figured out how to spend more of the free time in my day off my derriere than on it with my feet up, clicking away on my laptop. I’m making a beginning.
Our family has been bold enough to give away almost everything we own, move into an RV, and begin traveling around the country (slowly, at a family pace). In this unusual arena for daily life, peculiar and welcome changes are happening within and without each of us.
Once my kids see me tumbling more than just in a group of impressed children, maybe they’ll cartwheel with me on our walk to the park.
I wimped out. Though I’m perfectly able to spend half the journey to the playground upside down, I started thinking too much about who might be looking out their windows. But the boys and I did play catch for an hour, and my older son and I kept the ball going back and forth 44 times. Not much for some kids, but it took him a while to get good at catching a ball. The park ought to still be there tomorrow, along with the path to it, and my courage may hold out. If I just remember that seeing people have fun is generally good thing, I should be able to at least get one random cartwheel in before sunset.