She’s No Nadia

Posted: April 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: California, Friends and Strangers, Milestones, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Walking | 2 Comments »

I’m a lousy telemarker. And that’s no typo, Jeff. I do mean telemarker, not telemarketer. I’ve never actually done telemarketing (thank GOD). Even so, I bet I’d be pretty good at bringing that phone script to life.

Yeah so telemarking, for the luckily uninitiated, is a kind of skiing. It’s like downhill skiing, but on cross-country skis where your heel isn’t clamped into the binding. When you turn you bend one knee down towards the ski, while keeping the other one bent out in front of you. So as you come down the mountain it looks like you’re popping into position to propose every time you turn.

There’s also a thing called ‘jump telemarking’ or ‘jump tele’ where you add a little hop to that scenario. That’s for real show-offs.

Anyway, I suck at telemark skiing. Suck. Suck. Suuuuuck.

I know this because many many years ago—back in the Dark Ages before your parents were probably even born—I was dating a ski-obsessed fellow. He thought it’d be fun for us to take a weekend telemarking clinic.

Now, you might think the term ‘clinic’ is an odd one to pair with a recreational activity. ‘Clinic’ brings to mind images of nothing even remotely fun. Instead one conjures a cold, undesirable environment where you’re often in a great deal of pain.

It turns out that clinic was the perfect term for this ski weekend after all.

I’ll lay the groundwork by stating that I was pretty much a newbie to even downhill skiing at the time. The Brunos did not ski when we were young. We did not take road trips. We did not go camping. Everything about my childhood left me utterly unprepared for adult life in California—but that’s another story. There may even be a book in there somewhere.

Anywho, everyone else at this clinic was wearing faded Boston Marathon t-shirts. Trading war stories from their last IronMan. Making plans to swim to Alcatraz together upon our return to SF.

Me? I was unfamiliar with the PowerBars the teachers handed out during our first break. “Power Bar?!” I balked, as I sunk my teeth into the pale tan gummy thing. “More like a flat, undelicious Tootsie Roll.”

It turned out the other kids were familiar with this new-to-me foodstuff. They not only didn’t get my joke, they looked at me horrified, as if I’d spat out their Italian Nana’s pasta sauce.

But what really set me apart from these people was my utter incompetence on telemark skis. Throughout the weekend our teachers commanded us to get into “the telemark position”—that about-to-propose stance. By Monday morning I was scanning phone books to find someone who could erase that traumatic term from my mind.

My body seemed unwilling to bend that way, turn the skis, and move downhill across slippery snow. And when the kindly teachers offered extra help, their instructions baffled me. “Make your top thigh parallel to the ground!” they’d call out. “Wait… Aren’t I doing that?” I’d think to myself.

It was then that I discovered the gaping disconnect in my mind-body link. I understood intellectually how I should position my body, and I felt certain I was doing just that. In reality I was doing something closer to the Walk Like an Egyptian dance.

What killed me about all this wasn’t the brutal muscle burn that radiated from my legs for days after. It wasn’t having to wear the light gray rental telemark boots—stinky square-toed numbers that had less fashion merit than nursing shoes. It wasn’t even taking a perfectly good weekend to drive to Lake Tahoe with a group of people who—aside from my beau—I’d never see again. Nor was it the mortification of popping my PowerBar cherry in front of a group of die-hard devotees.

What tore me up about the whole experience was my persistent and thorough inability to get it. That weekend rocked my world for a while after, and I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about telemark skiing, and was actually thrilled at the prospect of never doing it again. But I was deeply shaken by being pulled that far out of my comfort zone.

I realized that in school, or at work, or in social situations—wherever there’s something to grasp or learn or pick up on—I’m used to catching on. At least eventually.

Drunken bidding at preschool auctions, now that’s in my sweet spot. And that’s exactly what recently landed Kate and Paige into new gymnastics classes.

They’ve gone two times thus far. The classes are held in a huge warehouse-like space, and several coaches conduct classes for various age groups at the same time.

Paigey and I are in the toddler class, which requires parental involvement. Kate on the other hand rocks her class solo. And every once and a while—generally when Paige catches a glimpse of Kate and runs screaming after her—I’ll look up to see Kate in purple flowered Spandex, arms extended out from her sides, walking along the balance beam with impressive grace and ease. It’s amazing what she’s picked up so quickly. She’s ravenous for more more more hot gymnastics fun, and starts whining from the moment we leave the place, “When is gymnastics class next?”

Paigey, on the other hand, is no future Nadia Comaneci. When the instruction is to bunny hop down the long trampoline, Paige opts to walk, wobbly-legged, curls bouncing. When the other kids climb up on the ladder-bars of a dome-shaped thing, Paige just touches her hand to it, then turns and wanders away. On the low kiddie-level balance beam she takes a couple steps then bellows, “Down, Mama! DOOOWN!” It’s only the hot dog roll that she performs with the same finesse as her classmates. (The thing I knew as a log roll when I was a kid. But that’s back when play structures were called jungle gyms. So what do I know?)

Kate’s got Coach Jordan, some young dude who all the parents gush over. Various maternal informants insisted he was THE teacher to get. But Paige’s coach is the one whose class took place at the same time as Kate’s. And when I first saw her blue hair, multi-pierced face, and neck and arm tattoos, well, what can I say? I judged her.

She was no Coach Jordan. No Coach Jordan indeed.

But towards the end of the first class, with Paige able to really do so few things, I felt obliged to ask Tattooed Lady whether Paigey Wigs might be in the wrong class.

“She was a late walker,” I offered up.

“Oh,” she said, unimpressed.

“Yeah, like she didn’t walk until she was 21 months old,” I persisted. “Like REALLY late.”

This is me in confessional mode. Get me anywhere close to a topic I don’t want to talk about, or I think you might call me on, and I respond by telling all. “Let me beat you to the punch,” my pysche says. Before you ask me a question I don’t want to answer, I’m just going to lob the information right at you.

I’d be a terrible spy.

And I couldn’t stop once started. “She’s in physical therapy!”I blurted out. “She’s really still mastering going down stairs! Sometimes her breath is really bad in the morning!”

Okay, so I wasn’t that revealing. But I did find I was suddenly throwing myself at the mercy of She With The Large Spider Tramp Stamp. Beseeching her for advice with every last drop of my Mama being.

“Should I put her in a lower class? There are lower levels aren’t there? Would she do better there? Get the hang of it? Get more out of it?” I was panting at this point. Yelping. Nearly pawing at her like a chihuahua, small frenzied legs raking away furiously.

We looked up as a line of toddlers forward rolled. Paige squealed with excitement, lost her balance, and fell on her ass. Then she got up to follow the crew to the foam pit.

“You know what?” Coach Nose Ring said, chewing on a lock of blue hair. “She’s not doing everything, but it’s good for her to have the challenge. She’ll learn from watching the other kids. And look at her,” she said, nodding towards Paige who was gleefully watching her classmates crawl through the foam pit. “She’s having a blast.”

And the thing was—as utterly mystifying it was to me—she actually was.

So Paige is staying in gymnastics class. And I’m training my mind to not start thinking that the other parents meet in the parking lot after class to discuss that curly-haired girl who’s just not catching on. I’m trying to repress my urges to apologize for Paigey’s hot dog rolls, when what’s called for is a blast off. And I’ve given up on trying to coerce her back onto the balance beam.

Someday she’ll learn how to jump and somersault and even cartwheel. In the meantime I’m hoping that I’ll learn that you don’t have to be at the head of the class to have a good time.


2 Comments on “She’s No Nadia”

  1. 1 Jeff said at 9:36 am on April 24th, 2010:

    I’m honoured to be mentioned in such a prestigious blog. And I did mean to use the British version of the word honour (I just feel like that version holds a bit more honour).

    Also, it is my job to mention that there is a typo in the 2nd paragraph. Wait!!…did you put that in there to see if I would bite?

    Speaking of biting, I can so relate to the PowerBar reference. I didn’t eat my first one in front of pro PowerBar eaters, but I did buy it thinking that I had just purchased a glorious bar of chocolatey goodness. I then sat down at the bus stop to enjoy my new found booty. I’m sure there must have been someone walking down the street that saw me gagging on ‘chocolate’ and furiously spitting out any remnants of the horrible PowerBar on my way to the garbage can.

  2. 2 Name (required) Mary said at 9:48 pm on April 26th, 2010:

    God, so many laugh out loud moments! Paigey is a rockstar, by the way. Great post.

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