My sister and I trained for the Olympics in our backyard. We had a variety of events that we were interested in: hula hoop running, stationary biking (in the horse-shoe pit), duck race-walking and my particular favorite ...
Tree Swing Trapeze!
We had a swing on the west side of our house. Two rough ropes were secured to a sturdy branch and at the bottom, an old wood plank. Perched on the swing, we would grasp the ropes with our gloved hands and travel to a place where you can win a gold medal just for swinging. With grace, of course.
It looked a little something like this:
It's my turn to be the acrobat. My sister will be the coach for a bit and then we'll switch. Coach Allison stands to one side with her hands on her hips.
"Alright ... are you ready?"
"Yes, Coach," I reply, standing beside the tree swing.
"Do you have your gear?"
"Yes, Coach. I have everything right here," I answer pulling on my winter gloves. We've discovered (the painful way) that this particular rope leaves splinters in our tender little hands. Terrible, hair-like slivers that Mom can't get out with her tweezers. To keep our hands splinter-free, we wear an old pair of ski gloves. While our hands sweat inside the mittens, we don't mind because we look cool. Real trapeze equipment.
"Okay, let's get you warmed-up. I want you on the swing and you need to get going high enough to touch the roof ten times."
I stand in front of the swing and walk backwards until the wooden plank rests against my shoulder blades. Then I run forward and pull up with my arms, feeling the seat slide under my backside. As I settle into the seat, I lean back and extend my legs in front of me. As the swing begins its descent, I tuck my legs and lean forward. I feel my hair blowing over my face. I sway forward again and I can almost touch the roof of the house with the tip of my shoe. On the return trip, my tennies tap against the wood of the roof.
"One! Keep pumping your legs! Two!"
I find the rhythm of the swing - back and forth, back and forth - and soon, I'm high enough in the air to push against the edge of the roof. I kick myself backwards. I love the feeling of almost flying!
"Ten! Okay ... come down and we'll practice another skill. Something more challenging."
As I drag my feet and the swing comes to a rest, I'm tingling with excitement. Something more challenging.
"I want you to stand on the swing. Hold on tight to the ropes and I'll get you started."
Coach Allison takes hold of the ropes and pulls me backward. Quickly she runs ahead, propelling me forward. Then she darts out of the way and orders me to keep up the momentum.
It's not easy to get a swing going while standing. I lean forward and backward, forward and backward, forward and backward ... slowly I sense the arc of the swing getting higher. I close my eyes and suddenly I'm no longer a mere 20 inches off the ground, but 20 feet high above a net. The audience in the seats far below "ooh" and "aah" as my trapeze sails across the expanse above them.
"Stand on your left foot and extend your right foot out in front. Now do an arabesque ... point your toes behind you. Good ... now do that on the other leg."
The crowd cheers! I feel the thrill of balancing on one foot. Graceful movements set to music.
Slowly the swing comes to a stop. I open my eyes and look to my coach.
"Now you are going to sit down and we're going to practice our spinning drills. Tuck your feet in if you want to go fast."
I curl up in a ball on the swing. My knees and elbows are tucked in tight. Coach Allison takes hold of the ropes and begins twisting them. Around and around I go and with each turn, I am further and further off the ground. Now my toes can't touch the dirt below the swing.
"Hold on! And stay curled up until I say so."
With one last shove, she steps away from the swing. Slowly the ropes begin to unwind and then I begin to pick up speed. Everything is a blur - the house, cottonwood tree and my coach are smeared together. I close my eyes and see the lights of the arena. The music is building to a crescendo and the crowd below me holds its collective breath.
The pirouetting swing has begun to wind up the other direction.
I would nod if I could, but the g-forces are too strong. I'm frozen in a spinning ball. My arms are getting tired of holding myself in this position and I'm relieved when I hear:
"Extend your legs and one of your arms!"
I unfold, pointing one satin-slippered foot out in front of me. The sequins and jewels on my leotard sparkle in the lights of the stadium. The crowd is on its feet cheering, clapping. It's a standing ovation!
As the swing completes it's final rotation, my head is still spinning. I wait a moment for my eyes to focus and then leap nimbly from the swing. I salute.
"Good job ... now it's my turn."
I hand my gloves over to the next athlete and take my place on the coach's platform.
"Let's have you warm up by touching the roof ten times. Then we'll do something fun like pushing off the cottonwood tree for some side-to-side tricks."
"Okay, Coach," Allison says.
Prompt #1 Write a post about a childhood memory as if you're in that moment again ... from the perspective of yourself as that child.