It was my first fear conquering – as kids today say – “epic fail.”
Not pretty at all.
Maybe I was too jet lagged. Maybe it was too early in the morning. Maybe it was the ten extra pounds of delicious-food Europe weight. Maybe 50-ish is a bit too old to take up a new trick this physical – the reflexes ain’t what they used to be! Maybe I should shut up and stop making up excuses.
Our oldest Spawn, The Piglet, and I wanted a fun mother/daughter outing and, after seeing a troupe perform in a park on Governer’s Island last summer, we decided that trapeze school would be just the ticket for a daredevil bonding adventure.
We woke up early on a Saturday morning and took the subway to Brooklyn to The España-STREB Trapeze Academy for an introductory class.
David tagged along as videographer/cheerleader, proclaiming that the circus life was not for him… unless it involved clowning.
After a run-down of tips and tricks, and time to practice on a stationary, barely-off-the-ground low bar, I was strapped into a safety harness and was escorted to the ladder that led to the platform I would be launched from.
Knee-knockingly scared, I climbed rung by rung and cautiously stepped from the ladder to the platform — EGAD! it was high! — not certain I was going to be able to go through with it.
As my coach switched my safety cable from the one that kept me from falling down the ladder to the two cables that would keep me from breaking my neck on the trapeze, I wondered if it were too late to turn back. Would I have been the first?
The only reason my determination to succeed remained intact was my unwillingness to slow down the entire class – just standing there doing nothing took away precious time from my fellow flyers.
The REAL panic set in when I had to reach for the swing itself. Seriously, I had to lean forward over what might as well be miles of empty space and grab onto a bar that is trying to pull me off the platform?
Clearly, I hadn’t thought this through. Even though I was being held from behind by a big strong man and had a coach next to me explaining every step, it still took every ounce of guts I could muster to hold on to the bar and just stand there.
Rigor mortis had set in.
What if I can’t hold on to the bar? Is the guy in charge of the safety cables paying attention? When was the last time they inspected the swing for cracks?
My brain screamed my panic mantra, “People do this everyday and do not die…people do this everyday and do not…” I wasn’t fully convinced of the second part of it.
After a few awkward false starts, I let go and screamed my way across the gym. Exhilarating!
The night before, when The Piglet and I were excitedly talking about our upcoming adventure, all I thought I needed to do was a swing from the bar. That would be enough, I didn’t need to learn any fancy tricks. But now, the adrenaline had kicked in and I wanted more. It was time to attempt a knee hang.
My attempts weren’t pretty, and I knew it (and wow – after seeing the video – it was worse than I’d thought), but I was proud of myself anyway.
After a few runs, I had the knee hang down, but realized that my responses to the shouted commands of my instructor were slowing and my heretofore unused muscles needed for the task weren’t responding anymore. The Piglet and the other young whippersnappers in the class were getting better with every run, I had hit my peak, and I knew it.
It was at this point that we were informed that we could attempt a catch – if we felt up to it. One of the instructors would be swinging on the other side and if we properly executed our knee hang and reached out as we were taught, we would be caught by our wrists and glide as gracefully as a seasoned circus performer to the far side of the gym.
The Piglet, huge determined grin on her face, scampered up the ladder and flawlessly achieved just that. I was in awe of her grace and beauty. I had that Mommy-proud surge of love and joy as she hit the mat triumphant. After happy hugs and high fives, it was my turn.
I was proud of my progress as I grabbed the bar and left the platform without much fear – and no screaming. I heard my coach’s shout to begin my knee hang just fine. Problem was, my muscles were played out. My legs just wouldn’t go over my head.
After dropping down to the mat on this failed attempt, I had to admit to my coach (and myself) that I couldn’t go any further.
I sat on the sidelines and watched as The Piglet and the rest of my classmates flew though the air with the greatest of ease. I was jealous. And a bit embarrassed. And mad at myself. I was pouting inside. I’m not proud of it, but there it was.
Rather than basking in my own private pity party, I made the decision to defect over to the cheerleader side and stood with David, his arm around my thickening waist, proudly watching our beautiful daughter in all her glory. She was truly spectacular.
I guess we’re never to old to bask in our children’s accomplishments.
Epic fail or not, it was a blast! Next time I’m in Brooklyn, I’m giving it another go – maybe with a little rest and another lesson under my (safety) belt, I can lick this challenge!
YOUR TURN: What do you think? Is a circus life in the cards for me?