I was a gymnast. While this is something I try to sneak into conversations any way I can, at this point my own children just roll their eyes and shake their heads as if they’ve tired of this apparently tall tale.
What they don’t seem to understand is that I really was a gymnast. I even have large trophies, medals and plaques to prove my claims, but because my kids all have received similar items for “participation” in soccer and other various activities over the years, they continue to roll their eyes at me.
If I had been lucky enough to have an iPhone back in the day, I could back up my claims even further. However, the only photographic evidence I can produce are yellowed newspaper articles and a few silly photos of our team perched awkwardly on what looks to be the vaulting horse.
But I really was a gymnast. I began my “career” in the dilapidated Clearfield Junior High School and competed through high school and college. Even in college, kids! Unfortunately for me, I didn’t suffer a career-ending injury and enjoyed the daily “body beatings” that a gymnast who competes on all the pieces of equipment had to endure.
We practiced all year, way before any governing body thought that might be an issue. We used any space we could get our hands on and any kind of equipment. Remember when the beams were wooden? They stood precariously on rusted steel legs that we removed each time we stored them behind the old bleachers in the gym.
Remember when we ran on the hard wood floors to an old wooden springboard and made our way over the leather horse? Remember those old wrestling mats? Even our beams were wooden!
As a result of my somewhat long athletic tenure, I’ve been lucky enough to receive several new personal pieces of equipment. I’ve had two carpal tunnel surgeries (thank you, uneven parallel bars), a new hip and, more recently, two brand new knees. I was reluctant to leave my precious kindergarteners for six weeks, but I knew that I wasn’t able to perform my job properly while enduring so much pain.
I introduced them to their amazing substitute teacher Mrs. Delvecchio, and gave them all hugs before I left. The children were very quick to give me wonderful advice about how to “get better really, really fast” so I could come back right after Christmas.
“Ms. Marsh, make sure to take all your medicine! Make them give you chocolate medicine. That works the best.”
“Take your smart pills! I don’t really know what smart pills look like, but just take ’em.”
“Don’t miss your doctor mappointments.”
“Have someone kiss it better ... probly your daughter. Have Sarah kiss you better!”
“I know,” one fella added, “Take Pissmo Petmo! It will make your tummy better!”
And then my little professor spoke up, “Did you know the Romans made ice cream out of snow? Have someone bring the snow in and make you ice cream! That will make you better for sure!”
“And if you get bored,” someone else added, “then find someone to play chest with.”
It was all this amazing advice, cards from the kids and my competitive nature that helped me with my recuperation following the surgery.
As I was preparing to leave HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital, one of the lovely nurses helped me to gather my things. She watched me get into the wheelchair and looked at me intently. “So, after this surgery and the tough rehab, tell me ... were all those years of gymnastics worth it?”
I looked at her and smiled. “Absolutely. Every single one.”