My first grade class was meekly herded into the gym for a school assembly. We obediently stayed put in our designated spot while the older classes monkeyed around. An older girl did a cartwheel in front of us. I was flabbergasted. Forget the flagrant disobedience, what would possess that child to put her head at risk by jumping around upside down like that?!!
I asked my girlfriend if she had ever seen such a thing. She had. "Can you do it too?" She got up and did a shaky cartwheel. I was awed. I had no idea my girlfriend could defy gravity. The older girl came back and did 3 perfect cartwheels in a row. I felt like a backwoods hick who didn't know city tricks. (Keep in mind, these kids also lived in the boondocks. They just weren't quite as deeply buried in the woods.)
When at home again, I told Sis1 about this amazing feat of daring. She knew about cartwheels, but had never tried to do them before. She gave it a try, then several tries. She sort of had the idea, but not the actual knack. Sis2 came home and quickly mastered it. I got off the grass and tried too.
Eventually, all of us mastered it. I thought that was enough gymnastics to last a lifetime, but Sis1 enjoyed athletic things. She started coming home with more ideas of things for us to practice. I managed to bend over backwards until I could put my hands on the ground, then I eventually managed to get my legs over too. I walked the railroad ties next to the driveway and pretended it was a balance beam. The Olympics gave us ideas for more balance beam tricks. I found a nice broken tree in the woods so I could swoop my legs further down than on the railroad ties. I did forward and backwards somersaults on that tree too.
Sis1 often spotted me during some of the more difficult maneuvers. If she wasn't around, I might get a concussion. I decided gymnastics was stupid, but by the time I got to middle school gymnastics were required. Those city kids had been collecting more sophisticated tricks in the intervening years too. I eyed the parallel bars with the same mistrust as I had felt when witnessing my first cartwheel.
I was out in my back yard a few weeks ago when I had a random thought about cartwheels. Could I still do one? I almost gave it a shot, but my rational mind quickly shut down that idiocy. My 5-year-old and 50-something brains are in complete agreement about the rules of my body's verticality and risk. Perhaps I'll watch some of the Olympics from the safe harbor of my couch.
My wish for this year's Olympics is that North and South Koreans build positive relationships with each other. I also hope their combined team wins something together creating hope for that region and for the rest of the world.