Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shell Shocked

So much has happened there is no way to begin to cover it here.  So I think I will just start in the middle.

A close friend has moved away.  Well, not really moved away, but her daughter has changed gyms and the majority of our relationship was based on gymnastics comradery.  Through a series of very dramatic and traumatic events (which could fill several posts) their family decided it was best for them to leave our gym.  I support their decision.  I think in the long run it might be better for their daughter and their whole family.  It was a good decision for them, but... I will miss them.

You see when we started on this crazy journey there were eight families.  At that time, we were virtual strangers who joined the army.  During that first year, as we finished basic training and entered the war zone that is competition season, we bonded in the way that combat bonds soldiers together.  At the end of that first year eight families turned into six and then five.  The loss was especially painful for Bear since her closest friends left one by one.  It took her a year to recover; I sometimes wonder if, like the loss of one's first love,  she will ever be fully healed.  Another year came and went.  During which the five became thirteen.  New bonds were formed.  In some cases these new bonds were more stable because they were based on more concrete things,  but as in all things, the closeness to those who witnessed the beginning with us was something special.

It was special enough to convince us to embark on an even crazier mission last summer.  With no guarantee of anything we ventured out away from the sure thing of the gym we had known from the beginning, to be vagabonds.  Our coach was opening a gym, but it wouldn't be ready for quite a while.  The only comfort we had was the companionship of our comrades.  At the time, even though it was scary, the choice was a no brainer.  Our loyalty was never to the gym Bear practiced at, but to the people who she practiced with.  Her teammates and her coaches were what made the fierce sport of gymnastics bearable.  And so the past year has gone.  We have been nomads for nine months, moving from place to place without a place to truly call home.  It has been at times frightening, maddening and exhausting, but we have tried to see it as an adventure.  Still, the stress of being unsettled took its toll on everyone.  Stress fractures began forming and recently one crack turned into a chasm. The result of this was one family, one of our best friends, deciding to abandon the nomadic lifestyle for the security of a place to hang their hat.

Like I said, I understand and support that decision.  However, it is hard to believe that another of our original members is gone. The original eight wide eyed little girls who began this sport just three years ago is down to three. Each time one slipped out she left a hole in my own little girl.  Bear still says, from time to time, "It seems like Hannah, Abby, and everyone should still be on our team." And I know how she feels.  I never expected gymnastics to become the part of our life that it has, but like I said at times it feels like a war zone and my fellow soldiers are the only thing keeping me alive.  And so now I feel the need to mourn a fallen comrade.

A few nights ago we got to see what will ultimately be our home.  I have no doubt it will be an amazing place - everything we dreamed from the beginning.  But as I stood there looking at it surrounded by a myriad of new enlistees I became sad thinking of all the people we lost on the journey.  The joy and excitement was tainted by the heartache of our most recent loss.  As I looked around at the new faces I could not help but think, "And then there were three."

Three families who share the same creation story.  Three gymnasts who have been together since they learned to hang from the bar.  Three... out of eight... Those are crappy odds.  especially when you consider that it's only been three years.  We have lost nearly 2 per year.  It begs the question... who is next?

Of course, there are many new faces.  We left the last gym with ten girls.  We picked up a few here and there, but over the past month our size has nearly doubled.  These are not new recruits either.  It's almost like we are combining with another platoon.  These new families aren't fresh faced, but bear their own battle wounds.  I'm sure some day we will share our war stories, but for now we just have to learn to view each other without distrust.  We need to see the newbies as fellow soldiers and remember that we are all on the same side. 

But just for today I need to observe a few moments of silent grief for those who did not make it this far...