••• Thursday, August 04, 2005

We Walk Among You.... 

...With grace; apt and able.

Yep, that's me, right behind you, at the grocery store, simultaneously chewing gum, checking a shopping list and plucking camel toe from my cho-cho, without once running my grocery cart into your Achilles.

You likely don't recognize me in my current form, skipping across this playground of adult competency, with nary a stumble.

That's right, you hardly know me, now, all standing without falling, and shit.

But you knew me then, that girl:
1) On the playground, face down in the dirt, after a spontaneous dead fall from a simple sit position, on the horizontal monkey bar thingy. The very same thingy, where most of her female classmates (plus or minus Evan Spielmacher, in his mother's nylon leggin's), would spend every recess, hangin' by a knee, while snapping their bodies around and around the bar, pony tails whipping through wood chips, like the curb brush on a street cleaner.

2) In elementary gym class, hanging from the chin-up bar, like dead cow on a meat hook, while classmates watched on, eerily quiet. Where sweet Mrs. Czuhai, the wall-eyed gym teacher, recited the usual words of encouragement.*

And even worse than the immediate embarrassment, was her most sincere (and mortifying) belief that word of her failure to meet the national standard for chin-ups, was being passed on to the President of the United States, himself, as she hung.**

3) In gym class, again. Sitting on the knot at the bottom of the rope climb. Staring at the ceiling. And staring at the ceiling. Some more. ::Although, there is something to be said about sitting on a knot, at the end of a rope. But not with the entire fifth grade class watching. ::

4) The only kid in the school who ever struck out three times, in one game, of kickball.

5) The only kid who was not just chosen last, every time, but on at least two occasions, not chosen at all. They just walked away.

6) The girl on the 7th grade softball team, who was easily convinced that there is such a position as Right Field Backstop (backup for the real right fielder).

7) The young woman playing catcher, on the adult, rec. softball team, who was sweetly asked by the homeplate ump, to quit fetching missed pitches (i.e., every pitch). "I'll get those, hon. You stay put." She said.

8) The coed in the Intro to Racquetball class at Michigan State, who, on account of repeatedly hitting herself in the forehead with racquet, was nicknamed "Ace" by the instructor, and assigned a full-time spotter.

In racquetball.

A spotter.

9) The young adult snorkler at John Pennekamp state park, who was convinced she was drowning, but didn't have the 50 dollars to pay for pulling the emergency cord on the life vest, so repeatedly put her feet on the coral, causing the guy on the boat to yell at her, a la megaphone. So, out of desperation (this was life, or death, I'm tellin' ya), she gingerly snuck little tip-toes on the coral, while coughing and gagging and clawing savagely at her now very embarrassed date (and collegiate athlete, whom she had flown hundreds of miles, on the second day of the Air Traffic Controllers strike, to see, and who didn't speak to her for the rest of the seven day vacation. And, of course, never called her, again).
Of course, there's more. But I'll spare you. I think you get the picture.

So, what's with all the clumsy reminiscing?

Well, me and The Cakers have been doing alot of hanging at the local parks. And, the other day I noticed that there didn't seem to be any kids there, like the one that I once was.

No shrinking violets, skulking in the shadows of the school building.

No soccer-impaired, 4th grade vixens, luring boys into the bushes.

No fitness pathetics, rolling potato bugs along the blacktop, at the end of a tiny stick.

Nope. Not a one. Just a bunch of physically confident children, jumping and climbing and whipping themselves around monkey bars, with wild-haired abandon. ::The Cakers so badly wants to try that, but she doesn't understand that just because she's the size of a fourth grader, doesn't mean she can play like one::. And I said to myself, well, yay.

I'm sure that the kids like me are still around. But I also think that, today, kids are afforded better, safer and more structured opportunities for learning and practicing physical coordination. And I believe that the opportunity to build physical confidence, in an emotionally safe environment, is key.

In fact, my first exposure to organized fitness was kindergarten PE. My one and only recollection of kindergarten PE, is of me wearing my rabbit-fur hand muff, while running relays (Hey, if you're a fit-tard, might was well look good, while falling down).

Then I barfed. On my muff. And on the floor. The smell of crunchy, sour bunny fur and cedar chips and school floor wax, will forever be married, in my mind. Sadly, the muff was never the same.

And yeah, I was a cheerleader in high school. But only because there were 14 uniforms, and 13 girls who tried out. I still recall tryouts, where I spent 10 minutes on the gym floor, trying to get a knot out of my sneaker ties, after I kicked them off to do the splits. And my friends, first staring at me in wide-eyed horror, then giggling. Unashamed. But through years of practice, I did improve. And by senior year, I earned it outright.

I guess my point here is that there seems to be hope, now, for the child I once was. And I know there will always be the non-athletic scapegoat***, who hobbles through school, until their PE requirements are met in 10th grade. But at least there appears to be a better sensitivity to our ilk. And safer opportunities to grow and learn.

So, go hug an oaf.
And have a Thursday.

*I attended middle school with Mrs. Czuhai's son; a nice kid who, unfortunately, inherited his mother's ocular gifts, if not her physical prowess. Not a good look, in middle school.

**I later redeemed myself with the big guy on Pennsylvania Avenue, by performing surprisingly well in the final event of the fitness challenge: The Cock Shuttle. In fact, I think that one is still one of my all time favorites. Thank you, Mr. President.

***For the record, back in the caveman days, I played a vital role in the survival of our species. Remember, back then, when the saber tooth tiger would come along, and every body would scramble up a tree, and wait for the danger to pass? Remember that? Well, I was the one who, distracted by the dingleberries in her personal undergrowth, would unceremoniously drop from the tree, like a coconut turd, thus satisfying the sabertooth and saving the clan, for another day. You can thank me in comments, personal email or by sending me presents, via UPS.

Edit note: I realize my blog has been wonky, for viewing purposes. I don't know what it was,but the only cure was to change the number of posts per page, to one or two. So, if you haven't been here in a few days, there check the August archives for updates. Sorry for any inconvenience or confusion and for any blogline upheaval, yesterday.


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