My Personal Journey to Forever Fit and Flexible
I was fortunate enough to be relatively fit, flexible, and slender for most of my
life. Or, at least I started out that way, and there was no reason to believe things
would ever change. As a child, I never had to worry about my weight. I was so
naturally slim and slight of build that it actually raised eyebrows when I was a kid.
Being of hearty Eastern European peasant stock, a solid build and a sturdy
constitution were very much admired as a sign of robust health and vitality. I fell
far short of the ideal specimen in that department within my family. My paternal
grandmother actually accused my mother of running out of food to provide me
proper nourishment at the dinner table, since I was her third child in four years and
the last one to get served. My mother jokingly told people that, even though I had a
good appetite, I was so thin and delicate because I had a tapeworm living inside
my body. I heard this so often that I believed it for a while and solemnly shared
this bit of information with my kindergarten teacher on the first day of school.
Good thing my teacher was a neighbor and knew my mother pretty well; otherwise
it could have been a problem.
I was so much smaller than my two older sisters that they kept a close eye on
me and often had to step in and protect me when the situation warranted. Since we
were so close in age we often played together, and naturally I always tried to keep
up with them. It got me into trouble on more than one occasion.
One instance happened during the summer before I turned five. My parents
were involved with getting the community swimming pool ready to open. The final
step was to fill the pool from a huge water pipe. It was a brutally hot day, and my
sister s and I were mesmerized by the swirling water as it gushed from the pipe and
began to fill the deep end of the pool. Since my parents and several other grownups
were right there at the edge of the pool, they gave us permission to get in the water
(fully clothed, of course) and cool off as the pool continued to fill. It seemed like a
great idea to have the distinct honor of being the first ones in the pool before the
season even opened.
Everything started out fine, until the water began to saturate my clothes and
weigh me down. I struggled to stay afloat, but I got caught in the whirlpool. I
started going under, and frantically reached for the ledge around the deep end, but
my fingers kept slipping off. Between the weight of my clothes, my small frame,
the swirling water, and the slippery ledge, I was in serious trouble. My sisters were
only slightly less hysterical than I and took turns pushing me up toward the ledge
as they screamed to the adults for help. My dad jumped in and pulled me to safety,
but it was my sisters who sounded the alarm and kept my head above water for
those few desperate seconds.
Later that summer, our family was at a church picnic, which happened to be at
the local amusement park. All of us kids were in heaven as we ran from ride to
ride. We finally came to the pride of the park, the roller coaster named “The Mad
Mouse.” It had individual cars instead of a chain of cars linked together like a train.
The track included a series of bumps toward the end of the ride, each one a little
bigger than the previous.
Since I was the smallest child, I was put in a car with my oldest sister, sitting in
front of her with her legs wrapped around me and both of us holding onto the
safety bar. It was great fun until we got to the series of bumps. I was so light that
when we hit the first bump I flew up into the air between my sister and the safety
bar and landed halfway out of the car. My sister grabbed me and tried to pull me
back into the car as we hit the second bump. I flew even higher into the air and
landed further out of the car, bent at the waistline, with my fingers dangling just a
few inches from the track.
Even in my panic, I could feel my sister desperately grabbing at the only thing
she could get ahold of—the waistband of my underpants. I could see the all of the
grownups screaming from below, including my mother, who was seven months
pregnant. Bless her heart, she was running beside the tracks with her arms
outstretched as if she’d be able to catch me. That’s when I knew I was in a
precarious situation. In my entire young life, I had never seen my mother run or try
to catch anything. ……
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