Without the pressure to be perfect, Macy could soar
Four until five every afternoon was the kids’ session at the club, and all the trampolines were taken up by small gymnasts earnestly taking guidance from their coaches.
Macy was impressed by their serious-mindedness, especially her niece, Faye, who was known in the family as “Tigger” as much for her restlessness and flightiness as her bounce.
Faye had just completed her first perfect seat drop. She turned to Macy and waved gleefully. Macy gave her a thumbs up.
“Concentrate, Vanessa!” A woman near Macy clapped sharply at her daughter, making Macy wince. “You’ll never get to Grade Six like that!”
Vanessa, a tiny ten-year-old in pink Lycra, looked miserably at her coach, and her coach pointedly ignored the woman, coaxing Vanessa to try again.
Macy shared a glance with Faye’s mum, Claire. The woman turned and gave Macy a dismissive up-and-down look.
Macy wasn’t exactly looking her best in her grey joggers and trainers, but still. She raised her eyebrows at Claire, who sniggered behind her hand.
The woman went back to shouting encouragement at her daughter. No doubt she thought she was being helpful.
For some gymnasts the technique might work. But when Macy heard you can do it, and let’s go again – again – again, she couldn’t help responding with anxiety and a sense of suffocation.
So much of her own childhood had been spent in places just like this.
When she’d shown a natural ability for trampolining, her parents had put everything they could into supporting her.
The weight of everyone’s expectations and the pressure to do well meant that when Macy looked back on those years it felt like one long blur of training and sacrifice.
In the end, she hadn’t been good enough. She hadn’t made it onto the Olympic team.
Her parents suggested she take a break, but she never went back to trampolining. By then it was a relief. She didn’t want to keep failing.
It was fifteen years since she’d last been in a gym.
When Claire told her that Faye wanted to start lessons, Macy had mixed feelings.
Claire had been inviting her to come along to watch for weeks, but Macy resisted, making excuses about being too busy at work – which was true.
“Vanessa! We’re not leaving today until you get that half twist right!”
The coach turned to Claire and with a wink said, “Actually, the seniors are going to kick us out in about ten minutes, but we can pick it up next session. There’s plenty of time.”
A little of the tension in Macy uncoiled. The woman finally sat down.
On the very next try, Vanessa did her first half twist.
Claire and Macy burst into applause. Vanessa smiled and went pink.
Meanwhile, Faye had done two more seat drops and was beaming. It was a joy to see her.
“OK,” Macy said to Claire. “I think you got this right.”
Claire bumped her playfully. “Why do you think I wanted you to come?”
Oh, her wise big sister.
Macy was suddenly flooded with the memory of the thrill of getting a move right on the twentieth or fiftieth or hundredth time of trying, and the sense of power in her own body it brought; the elation of doing something difficult.
That click when you finally got it. It was almost as delightful as trampolining itself.
That sensation at the top of a jump when you were weightless and time seemed to stop.
There was only one reason why she gave up trampolining, but there were a million reasons why she loved it.
Last Sunday, when Macy was working and called Claire to complain about it, Claire had suggested she take a break and do something fun.
“When was the last time you felt real joy and freedom?” Claire had asked her.
The answer came easily.
Macy finally took up Claire’s invitation to come to the gym. The expression on Faye’s face was the picture of everything she herself had felt on the good days of trampolining.
“Did you see me?” Faye asked, running up to Macy at the end of the session.
“I saw you.” She kissed Faye on the forehead. And then, before Faye and Claire left, she kissed Claire too. “Thanks for this.”
Now it was Macy’s turn.
She was so stiff when she climbed on to the trampoline that she felt like a beginner again. A couple of the kids from Faye’s session were still around and giggled as they watched.
Well, she thought, I guess I’m never going to make it to the Olympics. I might never be any good again. So what was the point? None.
She grinned merrily, and the feeling of lightness this realisation gave her was echoed in the strengthening bounce of her legs.
Falling into a rhythm, she went higher and higher, until it felt like almost floating.
The reason for giving up wasn’t good enough any more. She loved this.
Down on the ground, Vanessa’s mother had paused to watch with the others, her expression perplexed and vaguely disapproving.
Macy waved. She turned away abruptly. But Vanessa stayed.
For a full minute more, she watched Macy as she did silly leaps with terrible form, and her face was lit with a soft smile.
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