Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gettin' Yer Bell Rung

Tuesday night, Diane and I took Kailey to her gymnastics class which we had to reschedule because of a conflict with softball. Her rescheduled class was later than normal, and the gym bustled with several classes of girls of varying age going through a variety of exercises from floor, to vault, to balance get the picture. Only one thing will stop all activity in the gym dead in its tracks and it's situated on one wall next to the vault: a bell. It is a common practice that when a budding gymnast accomplishes a new feat, she, or the occasional he, bounds over to the bell and rings it. The gym goes silent as all attention is directed toward the ringer of the bell, followed by the collective question inquired by all who are present, "WHADJA DO?" The bell-ringer then gives a description of the mastery of their new skill:

"I did a somersault!"

"I climbed the 20-foot rope without plummeting to my death!!"

"I did a roundabout half-pike, triple gainer with a lemon twist!!"

The gym then bursts into cheers and applause, and the bell-ringer runs back to join her class, beaming with pride.

Kailey recently moved up to the next level and is doing quite well. I'm often impressed by her gracefulness as well as her natural ability to pick up new maneuvers quickly. About halfway through the session, her class moved to the low balance beams, situated about a foot off of the floor. They began by doing their normal beam exercises, but then her instructor introduced a new move to the balance beam: the handstand toe-touch. The girls are used to doing this move on the floor. They start by going into a handstand, touch their toes at the top of the handstand, then bring their legs back down to the floor where they resume their standing position. Now they were supposed to do this on the beam. The handstand position was no problem for most of the girls, but they were falling all over the place as they tried to land squarely back on the beam.

When she started, Kailey was stumbling and tumbling like the rest of the girls, but then began sticking her landings. Granted, she was only going a quarter of the way up on her handstand, but as her confidence grew, she went higher and higher in her handstand while sticking more of her landings. Her instructor worked with her for a minute, saw her stick a landing, and, yup, you guessed it, sent her over to the bell. Diane and I smiled as we watched Kailey trot with confidence across the gym to where the bell sat on the wall. She gave the string a tug and the bell sang out, prompting everyone in the gym, as if on cue, to respond with the required inquiry:


Kailey took a deep breath, then stopped. Her proud smile faded from her lips and the blood drained from her face as she realized she had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA OF HOW TO EXPLAIN WHAT SHE HAD JUST DONE. Her little body slumped against the wall as she felt the stare of every eye in the gym boring into her, waiting to hear the details of her fantastic feat. Her eyes widened to what seemed the size of her head, revealing the churning wheels of her mind that desperately searched for an explanation. After what seemed like an eternity, Kailey muttered something unintelligible, at least to Diane and me as we tried to stifle our laughter, then scurried back to her class to the gracious cheers of the parents and other gymnasts.

She completed the rest of her class without incident, but I think she left the gym having learned an important lesson. If you're gonna ring the bell, you'd better have a damn-good explanation.

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