Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, I sit at the YMCA and watch my son stretch, jump, punch, and kick his way toward a colored belt at Tae Kwon Do class. I love watching him, but I also use this time to catch up on my reading, as do most of the other parents.
At the beginning of January, class was progressing as usual. I was reading a social work text and taking notes on a legal pad. Out of nowhere, Miss Tan-and-Blonde-Perky-Little-Sunshine (a.k.a. the instructor) looked over at the group of parents and said to the kids, in a sugary voice, "I think some of your mommies and daddies should quit reading their magazines and take this class with you and work off all of those Christmas goodies!"
My head snapped up so quickly that I almost whip-lashed myself. "Huh?" I thought to myself. "Did Malibu Barbie really just say that?" I discreetly peered at the other parents, to see if anyone else seemed as shocked as I was. Magazine pages continued to flip.
Maybe I took her flippant comment as a challenge because I used to be in fairly decent shape. No, I was never a black-belt anything; however, I could take on a rigorous one-hour deep water aerobics class followed by an hour on the treadmill. Lately, my most rigorous exercise regimen is opening and closing the refrigerator door and operating the lever on the recliner. But, how difficult is a half-hour childrens Tae Kwon Do class? I mean, really!
Two days later, Daniel and I arrived at class early. I was dressed for success - the same black sweat pants I usually wear around the house and an old t-shirt that hopefully hid all of the "Christmas goodies" I was there to work off. Daniel showed me the warm-up stretches. I watched him intently, but declined, because it would involved plopping down on the floor and I wasn't sure I would be able to get back up in time for the beginning of class. One by one, the other active kids arrived to class. The magazine-reading parents filled the row of chairs, looking at me quizzically.
Miss Malibu burst through the door with her usual energy. "Oh good!" she exclaimed. "We have a visitor!"
I gave her a weak smile.
"Line up, class!"
"Yes ma'am!" the children responded.
"Let's warm up!"
What happened next was beyond humiliation for me. We did a series of stretches, calisthenics, and cross-training moves. I had watched my son completed these moves dozens of times without thinking they were so difficult because he did these with such effortless ease. I, however, creaked, cracked, and moaned my way through the warm-up. These were the vertical, standing-up moves. Next, it was time to move to the floor. Here we go...
"Put your bottoms on the floor!"
The children dropped to the floor like balls of hail falling from the sky. I slowly went to one knee, placed my hands on the floor, heard the crackling of the first knee, tried not to gasp audibly as my lower back was about to give, placed my other arthritic knee on the hard floor, then, one, two, three- plopped my extra-padded bottom on the floor. Aside from wondering how I was going to get back up, I was ever so proud of my great accomplishment!
Malibu yelled out the numbers 1 through 4 in Korean, and the children yelled them back, all the while moving their arms from leg to leg and touching their little hands to their feet and their little noses to their knees. I touched my grown-up hands to my sore, sore knees.
"Now, put your feet together and touch your nose to your feet...go!"
Again, the Korean numbers. Again, the little noses and the little feet. Again, I was able to bend approximately 2 centimeters toward my feet.
After a few more agonizing stretches on the floor, the moment I had been dreading since I "plopped" to the floor had come.
"Pop up like you're coming out of a hot toaster...go!"
The children POPPED with vigor. I rolled my butt one direction, put both hands on the floor, put one abused knee on the floor, popped the joints of my knee (the only popping I did that evening), put my other knee on the floor, both hands on the floor, then, up, up, UUUPPP! The entire class watched and waited for what seemed like five minutes as I rose from the floor. I, one again, was very proud of my accomplishment!
The final half of the class was the actual Tae Kwon Do moves. Punches, high blocks, kicks, stances. Since we were NOT on the floor, I was actually able to keep up with the bundles of energy. I felt like a fitness guru, a model of health, an example to those magazine-reading couch potatoes!
The following morning, getting out of bed was nearly impossible. I walked down the hallway like a 90-year-old. Three ibuprofin could not touch my throbbing pain. After I got my kids off to school, the couch was my best friend for several hours, until I had to go about the plans I had for the day. I was barely able to walk. I don't think I had ever experience so much pain. Why was Vicodin not offered to me? I got it after my hysterectomy, for goodness sake! I really think I was in more pain from the class. At least after the surgery I had a morphine drip for two days!
The next week, I was not dressed to participate in class. I was sitting in reader's row with the other parents. Malibu came up to me and asked me why I wasn't going to take the class again.
I had to think quickly. I couldn't let her know how much pain she had inflicted on me. I didn't want to appear to be the unfit, couch-potato that I actually was.
"Well, you see, I really have to make it through this text book within the next few months," I said. I really emphasized the words text book so as not to be associated with the magazine readers.
"It's only a half-hour class!" she offered.
"I know, but I am so busy during the day," I half lied.
"Okay, but we will miss you," she said, giving me her widest smile.
"I'll miss you, too," I said, grinning, my fingers crossed behind my back.