When I was a girl, I was cursed with long, skinny arms and legs and no middle. I was thin as a rail and would’ve blown away in a stiff wind. With that body came a head filled with fearlessness and not a lick of sense to temper it.
I was willing to try any stunt, race any race, in spite of my uncoordinated limbs and the fact that I looked like a pixie stick doing calisthenics.
Once, I leaped head-first off the fourth rung of a step ladder into a pile of leaves. The only thing that saved me from breaking my silly neck is that my head was full of something soft and squishy. Obviously, it was not brains.
I walked away from that on my skinny little legs, shaking my empty little head and wondering what possessed me to do such a thing.
I have grown a few neurons since then and have not recently been seen leaping off high places and risking integral parts of my body; but I’m not ruling out the possibility of doing something stupid occasionally.
My daughter, bless her heart, seems to have been cursed with the same affliction as her mother. Built like a strand of fiber optics and a head full of fluff, she is adventurous, but not quite as fearless; which makes her a few marbles smarter than me.
She is ten years old and has somehow managed to reach the double digits without learning how to do a cartwheel. At least, when she decided to learn, she chose my living room with its nice soft carpet on which to practice. I most likely would have chosen the middle of an asphalt street during rush hour.
Watching her place her hands on the ground and throw her bent legs from one side to the other reminded me of a bullfrog trying to release his front legs from a wad of bubble gum.
I even tried spotting her once, telling her to “straighten out your legs!”
Unfortunately, she chose the very last second to suddenly remember my advice. Her legs screamed out of nowhere and my jawbone may never close properly again. It’s a wonder I still have any teeth left.
Okay, so the girl may never get the whole cartwheel thing. Maybe we could try a flip. Fortunately, my last neuron kicked in and I thought about what one more poorly aimed heel might do to my remaining teeth and decided to work up to a flip.
We’d start by doing a headstand and work our way up to a handstand and then, after she’s mastered the concept of “straight legs,” we’ll try the flip.
“Try a headstand,” I said.
She demonstrated, once again, that she is indeed my daughter by backing up to get a running start. In my mind, I saw her little head popping right off her shoulders. I knew I’d never get her married off without a head, so, once again, I placed myself in the path of her oncoming, gangly body and took a small head to my midsection before we landed, bruised and battered, on our behinds.
“A handstand never needs a running start,” I instructed when my breath came back. “You put your head and hands on the floor. That’s it. Then put your knees on your elbows and balance for a few seconds.”
“Are you sure this is the way to do it?” she asked from her upside-down perch.
“Sure, I’m sure. Now try to lift up your legs slowly until they are straight.”
Staying clear of a possible rogue heel, I watched her struggle to balance, and then, WHAM!…she hit the floor, flat on her skinny backside.
I winced. That’s going to leave a mark.
“Mom, I think I’m going to take a break. My body hurts.”
“Yeah, me too. Maybe you should give piano lessons another try.”