While I was rummaging around in my summer clothes drawer, I pulled out a very wrinkled pair of shorts and had one of those 'makes-your-blood-run-cold' flashbacks to middle school gym class. I assume it was because my gym shorts were the same color (red) and, much to the defeated efforts of my mother, my gym shorts were always wrinkled. I loathed gym class. The persistent squeaking of sneaker treads on varnished wood floors made my skin crawl, not to mention the smell and the endless echoes of shrieking girls.
But the worst part of gym class was our gym teacher. Our first teacher (names of gym teachers are not remembered) was an attractive blond with short hair, determined jawline and developed muscles. As far as gym teachers went, she wasn't too bad. However, midway through 7th grade, she left under a cloud. Her replacement seemed was so completely her opposite that it was awe-inspiring. We referred to her as "The Toad". Yes, we were typical mean tweenie girls. She was about 4 feet 5 inches - in all directions. She never washed her hair, or her person, it seemed. Her clothing had food stains on it. She had a croaky voice. She despised us and the feeling was mutual. There was no whining allowed, no excuses or absences. We whined anyway, and shuffled through the routine, tried to shinny up the python-width rope with our skinny limbs, jogged in endless circles. staggered around with medicine balls, trying to knock each other over. She croaked mean things at the clumsy, the overweight, the too-pretty girls, and the smarty-pants girl (guess who). It was an hour of pure hell every week. She finally left -- also left under a cloud (maybe a cloud of flies - sorry, but I still don't like her). Her replacement was a young, fresh-out-of-college woman who loved us. Suddenly, there was a lightness in our steps - we shinnied our little hearts out and sprinted everywhere. But I still didn't like gym.
I wasn't all that coordinated (and it hasn't gotten better with age), but I was fearless. I had very romanticised images of myself and had planned becoming a prima ballerina. At that age and time, every girl I knew had ballet careers in mind. However, when my mother took me to try out for ballet school (a local enterprise in someones basement), the instructor took my mother aside and said (loudly enough for me to hear), "I think you should find some other form of creative movement for your daughter. She's...well...rather too uncoordinated for ballet." I was completely crushed. To my mother's credit, she searched out a tap dancing class for me and I was launched! The class was held in an old movie theater and was taught by an old Vaudevillian guy. His wife played the piano. This was more like it! I managed to dance my way through the ranks and, at the end of the season, performed a solo act to a packed audience (of 25). I remember what I wore, and I remember most of the steps. The smell of greasepaint was in my nose! Then I discovered horses and all thoughts of Broadway vanished. Girls can be so fickle.
And, speaking of girls, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA PEA!!! xoxoxo