We live a few blocks from a park that is essentially a giant field, perfect for playing fetch, flying a kite, and doing a cartwheel.
"Watch Mama do a cartwheel," I called out to Rue the last time we were there. This was my moment.
The Olympics had just ended, and Rue had spent several evenings standing inches from the TV watching girls in sparkly leotards fly. Naturally, she was obsessed. Our family spent many hours on the living room rug as Rue directed us in somersaults.
(Note: a toddler discovering that a dog can't do a flip will always end in tears.)
So, when faced with a giant field, I thought I would show her that her mama was just as graceful and strong as those Olympic athletes. (a baldfaced lie, but isn't parenting really just a series of lies?)
My cartwheel felt smooth, like I was flying and strong. I landed on my feet and smiled at Rue, who was grinning in amazement.
"That was terrible," called Y, who I should note is a former gymnast and a current snob.
I had a flashback to being ten, chubby, and friendless. My sister-in-law, a professional gymnast, was coming over, and I had been counting down the days to her visit. If she could teach me how to "do gymnastics," like I hoped she would, I would finally be pretty, popular, and loved.
She had barely arrived before I made my first request. "I was thinking you could teach me how to do a back handspring right now."
"Um," she said, "Probably not."
At the field with Y and Rue, I gawked at Y. "Are you kidding?" I asked. I had just been upside down and then right side up again. Without falling. It felt impressive to me.
He rolled his eyes. "You were piked and you didn't put your hands down correctly."
"Fine," I snapped, feeling ten, chubby, and friendless. "I'll do it again."
Angrily, I launched my cartwheel. I would show him. I started running. I was graceful. I was strong. I was upside down. Weightless.
"That wasn't any better," Y called. "You didn't... what's wrong?"
My face must have given it away: at the peak of my graceful, perfect cartwheel, my hand had landed squarely in dog shit.
I held my hand up, a horrified expression on my face. Y started laughing hysterically. Rue started laughing hysterically.
We walked home, Y detailing everything that was terrible about my cartwheel. I walked beside him, graceful, strong, my hand wrapped in a plastic doggy poop bag.
(We are so lucky to have such an accomplished gymnastics coach on hand.)