Sunday, July 09, 2006

Flip Fantasia

Last night I taught at a NIA jam at the Eveoke Theatre in downtown San Diego. The jam was a benefit for a handful of non-profit groups and organized by my friend (and former UCSD student) Dani. I was one of five teachers and we danced for two hours without a break. Some of you may have wondered what the hell I'm talking about when I mention NIA. If NIA was a cult, it would be the best kind, where everyone is happy and dancing all the time. And it does inspire a cultish devotion. I always joke that nine out of ten people who try my class say "That was interesting!" afterwards. And the tenth starts taking five NIA classes a week and then trains to become a teacher. NIA combines a bunch of different movement forms, including dance, martial arts and yoga, with some kick-ass music. You do it barefoot, but it's very aerobic. The couple who invented NIA call it "the mind/body/emotion/spirit workout," and that description is particularly appropriate at jams, when a huge room of strangers somehow becomes a hootin' and hollerin' life force. Last night was a prime example.

The Eveoke Theatre is a very cool downtown-y feeling space with cavernous rooms decorated with pastel paints and chalk graffiti, and no air conditioning. It is freakishly humid in San Diego right now and when I first walked into the studio, I announced, "I think I'll wear a towel on my head while I dance to make it a bit more like a Swedish sauna in here." The heat intensified as the night went on and during my segment, which was late in the game, I thought I might go into cardiac arrest from a combination of adrenaline and dehydration (I had already drunk two bottles of water at that point.) My hair looked like I'd just showered. But I can't really explain the thrill of leading the room in a dance where the energy of the group starts to radiate pure joy. One of the songs I chose, "Jammin', " is danced in a circle with a big kick-line into the center and back out, and I always thrill to see a couple dozen people goofily grinning as they kick in unison like modern-day Rockettes.

And just being able to sweat and yell and act crazy for two hours did wonders for my spirit. As a new mom, I find it really hard to exercise as routinely as I once did. By the weekend, I feel like a flubby slug. Lately, I gaze in the mirror at my pasty complexion and purple-rimmed eyes, with defiant gray hairs zinging up from my poorly combed head and admit, "No wonder everyone's been calling me Ma'am." But when I've been doing NIA for an hour I feel young and pretty again; my limbs are supple, my back is strong, and, well, I can just keep pulling my yoga pants up to hide that belly flab. After two hours last night, I was exhausted and thirsty, but the endorphins were buzzing me like fireflies.

They must have been the reason that Grace and I got all reckless, for us and our mom selves, on the way home. We were hungry; the promised post-show vegan appetizers having been depleted before I managed to wring myself out and into some dry clothes. Driving up Fifth Avenue towards Hillcrest, we suddenly decided to pull a U-turn and head back to Little Italy at the unthinkable hour of 10:00, and found ourselves, on a sweet, balmy night in July, sitting at a tiny outdoor table at a new restaurant called Sogno DiVino, sipping sauvignon blanc from impossibly fragile glasses and oohing and ahhing over summer tomatoes, thinly sliced brie, ripe strawberries and field greens the ridiculously cute Italian waitress described as marinated in a "balsamic re-DEWK-shun."

We laughed and gossiped and savored every moment of this interlude that was so unusual for us--the lateness of the hour, the difficulty of the food, the warmth of the alcohol, the total absence of "Ma-MA-ing." As midnight drew near, alas, we both turned back into pumpkins, but at least now we were pumpkins that had been organically and lovingly grown. ;)

I don't know if any other moms can relate to this, but for me having a child really puts the final stamp (as if a big hand in the sky had come down and inked "CERTIFIED" on my psychic paperwork) on the summers of my youth. Now, I'm not saying that summer isn't still a wonderful time, with swimming and fairs and sweet corn and fireworks. But at the risk of sounding a bit...what? nostalgic? revisionist?...I've always associated summer with the thrill and danger of unpredictability. In my teens and '20s, I often had strange jobs in the summer, where I learned new things and met and inappropriately cavorted with strange, new people. I never knew where I might find myself on a summer evening, and which chunk of starry sky or light-dimpled ocean I might be gazing across. I never knew when I might be going to work after only three hours of sleep with a nagging headache and a lopsided smile. It was a time when I might get together with a friend for a dishy lunch after only a week's separation and confide, "You are not going to BELIEVE what's happened since I last saw you!" Summer was a time for kissing men I didn't even like, just because it was summer and, oh, isn't the sound of the ocean and the crackling of the beach fire lovely? Most importantly, every little breeze did NOT whisper Louise: it whispered "Samantha, my darling, my scrumptious little cupcake." Meaning, bien sur, that whatever happened, it was all about the wonder of me.

With each passing day, David, Jarrah and I feel more like a family unit, like the three of us were always meant to be together. But sometimes, for a fleeting moment, I am a bit agog that I'm a grownup now. That means some things are a little more predictable. I haven't had any new jobs lately, and when people say "What have you been up to?" I hesitate slightly, not wanting to say, again, "Changing diapers. Pushing swings. Cutting things into small pieces." But it also means I don't wake up in the morning by bolting upright in bed (alone, mind you, I wasn't ever that naughty) with the cringing thought, "Oh no, who did I kiss last night?" I know who I kissed last night. And I plan to keep kissing them both, every night. That's a prediction I'd bet on, with all my heart.


Unknown said...

What a terrific read!

Alleen said...

I agree with Cheri - what a great read that post was! Definitely had me thinking back to my youth - aye, yay!

The three of you have from now 'til forever to bask in the glow of being a family.

Anonymous said...

What they said!

Also, Sam, you reminded me that I've been thinking a lot about the benefits of becoming a mother in my late 30s. Sure, I have half the stamina I had in my twenties, but I also have half a life full of "me, me, me" that I can look back on with satisfaction. NOTHING is about me anymore, at least not for now--but that is completely okay nearly all of the time.

Your interlude in Little Italy was such a wonderful fantasy that I can hardly believe it really happened!

Miss J

Mary said...

It sounds like a fantastic night! I missed being there!



suebdo said...

Ahhh Summer memories.... am I one of those unsavories you recall cavorting with - a blueberry tasty snack held high aloft in each fist!!
You'll never really be a grown up when you remain a kid at heart. Sure, you only get evening-long furloughs ... but that's all you need :)