In the summers between my college years, I worked at the Recreation Department. We put on programs for the kids’ summer vacations. I was good at it. Because I had been that kid. I was that kid that needed something to do in the summer. There would be no vacations, or pool parties. These kids, kids like me, wouldn’t be taking their pictures in front of Big Ole. They would be riding their bikes to town. Looking for a game to play, another kid in cut-off shorts with nothing to do. For these kids, we made a good summer. We had softball leagues. Gymnastics. Kickball. Playgrounds. We had time, and most importantly, we had imaginations. This was more than enough to fill a summer.
I helped teach in the gymnastics program for three summers. These were not Olympic athletes.Most didn’t even have leotards. But we had mats, and beams and uneven bars and a horse. We had enthusiasm. And we had spotters. I was kicked in the head by every chubby girl trying to do her first round-off or cartwheel, but I smiled and stepped in to spot them again. Pain without malice leaves pretty quickly.
My favorite part of gymnastics is the finish of each program. At the end of each routine, the girls were taught to raise their hands perfectly straight in the air above their heads, chests out, shoulders back, full smiles – “Nailed it!” No matter how the routine went. If they fell. If they stumbled. If they just did their very limited best, they raised those arms as high as they could and they walked off that mat, nothing but pride. I loved it.
I guess my mother was doing that. I guess I was too. Lipstick. Full smiles. Hopeful hearts. Hands above our heads, we got through each day, and no matter what happened, we found a way to be happy. Nailed it!!!!