Teetering on the Balance Beam

My dad built me a balance beam.

I grew up on a farm outside a small midwest town. We didn’t have a lot of the “extras,” the things kids in cities might take for granted because of easy access. But I commend our town for always trying to provide a taste of a broader life so that people could see beyond its borders, to find out if there were some additional opportunities for them, even if they eventually had to leave the area to explore further.

We had a small college in town, and that college had a gymnasium and enough attached storage area to keep gymnastics equipment. A woman in town was passionate about her daughters and others having the opportunity to compete, and someone funded the equipment, so our little town had a gymnastics team. It formed when I was in upper elementary school, and I was thrilled. I loved watching the Olympics, and gymnastics was one of my favorite Olympic sports.

Being on the team was a big time commitment, but my parents sacrificed the money and time (thanks to my chauffeur mom who dropped me off and picked me up two or three days each week). I flipped, flopped, twisted, trained, sweated, laughed, and cried.

My dad built me a balance beam.

It was easy to practice on a line, and for a while, that worked. There was a lot to perfect on the ground before jumping onto something 4 inches wide 4 feet off the ground. When I was at team practice, I had to split my time among four apparatuses, as well as strength training, flexibility training, warm up, cool down, etc. Plus, I had to share with others. I needed more time to train.

My dad built me a balance beam.

He could build almost anything out of almost anything. For my balance beam, he used a 4×4 beam and supports that were a combination of sawhorses and pallets. It wasn’t exactly up to Olympic specs, but it was sturdy, and it was mine. And my dad made it for me.

I didn’t try anything too dangerous on it, but I got to run through many routines. Of course, it was a sunny-day-only activity, since it was in the yard. My dad even climbed onto it a time or two. Maybe he was checking its safety, or maybe he was just trying to prove to himself or me that he had a few moves.

The beam didn’t last forever. Neither did the gymnastics team (or my ability to flip). But the memory of dad building that beam and doing a crooked scale on it is strong in my mind.

Sometimes, even when we crookedly teeter, the effect of what we do stays strong.

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