White Men Can’t Jump.
And apparently middle-aged fat women can’t either.
I used to be able jump higher than the tallest building or at least up to eight feet because that’s how tall the ceiling was in my childhood home growing up on Cherry Fork Road. We did a lot of jumping. I couldn’t pass through a doorway without jumping up and touching the door jamb on my way outside to play with the neighborhood kids.
On more than one occasion I can remember my father yelling after us as we skipped and jumped our way through the circular path that wound its way through the downstairs of our old farmhouse. “Stop running in the house! You’re going to knock something over!”
We never did knock anything over but we usually stopped running (for a while) because you never wanted to make Dad say “Don’t make me come after you,” because he would…and he could catch you because he was the fastest person, young or old in the neighborhood.
Unlike my sister who excelled at standing on her head and turning cartwheels (neither of which I ever mastered) running and jumping were my preferred activities on rainy days and sunny afternoons. It didn’t matter what time of year it was because living on a farm with a huge barn and a beautiful silver maple tree allowed many opportunities for this hyper kid to wear herself out.
In the fall the jumping moved out to the front yard and wasn’t how high we could jump but how high we could climb in the maple tree before safely jumping into the pile of leaves below. I never made it past the bottom most branch because I was never tall enough or if I did happen to reach it on one of my jumps, I wasn’t able to pull myself up. I used to jump off the high side of the tree where a big root jutted up (I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as much fun as jumping from the tree, but I never injured myself either, unlike our neighbor’s cousin, John John, who fell out of the tree and broke his arm. A branch might have broken; I can’t remember for sure.).
Another thing we liked to do as kids was jump from bridges. Why? I have no idea. We jumped from the bridge down by the creek at my house. We jumped off the swinging bridge down in Wamsley, Ohio, population 50, (most of whom are my family and are buried in the cemetery there) that hung across Scioto Brush Creek and as an adult looking back on this feat (because Brush Creek should be called a river) either we were kids and didn’t know what fear was or we were just batshit crazy. (Either way, I’d probably pass out if I even contemplated doing something like that as an adult.) Plus, now I’m afraid of heights and I certainly won’t be climbing anything just to jump off of it.
And we thought about jumping off another swinging bridge when we were in high school but decided we’d just rather party there instead (Although, but I can’t be sure, there might have been some jumping on senior skip day or maybe it was semi-skinny dipping. Age has a way of making things a bit fuzzy).
Also, in the fall basketball practice started and the running and jumping lasted for six months without a break. The goal from the moment I started jumping in the living room was to touch the ceiling. The goal (besides making the team) when I played basketball was to always touch the bottom of the backboard. Eventually, I did touch the ceiling in the living room and the goal after that was to palm the ceiling. In basketball, I gradually worked my way up to getting a running start to touch the bottom of the net and by the end of my senior year I could do a flat-footed jump from directly under the net and touch it. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never touch the bottom of the backboard.
Until one day in my freshman year of college. It was fall and I found myself missing out on my favorite sport so I walked on the team at Wilmington College. During our conditioning program, we lifted weights and it was the first time I had done any serious weightlifting. My leg muscles became more than just thunder thighs, they started to resemble tree trunks (not really, but they were big). One day at practice, or maybe after practice, I can’t remember, some of us started seeing how high we could jump.
“I’ve never been able to touch the backboard,” I said nonchalantly. Looks of disbelief were tossed around like one of the towels we used to wipe our brows off with—I should have let it go, but didn’t. “Nope, I sure haven’t.”
Coach walked over.
“What are you guys talking about?” she asked. One of the players filled her in and the next thing we knew we were all lined up. “Okay,” she said. “You know the rules: everything we do as a team and unless you’re under 5’5”, which none of you are, everyone has to run and touch the backboard. And we’ll keep running until you do. I’ve got all night.”
I’ve never been a big fan of the philosophy: you fail, we all fail. I know there is no I in team, but I had a lot of junk in my trunk even back then, so why punish the whole team because my feet were firmly planted in the ground. After the third time of failing to reach the backboard and the third suicide sprint up and down the court we called a “players only meeting” and met on the opposite end of the court.
We whispered amongst ourselves for a few seconds, mainly catching our breath before the shrill of the whistle sounded again. “Okay ladies, let’s try this again.”
Coach blew the whistle again, but instead of us lining up to wait our turn to jump and touch the backboard, we all ran underneath the rim and the whole team lifted me up. I smacked the backboard as hard as I could several times and the coach looked like she was going to choke on that whistle.
“I did it,” I said, “with the help of my teammates.”
Coach was silent for a moment. “All right,” she said, “that’s enough for now. But I want you to be able to touch it by yourself by the end of the season.” I transferred schools at the end of that fall quarter so I didn't have to worry any longer about the threat of running sprints until I puked. I never did touch the backboard on my own.
What started this trip down memory lane was my (very unsuccessful) attempt to jump up and grab a branch that was hanging over my car. I tried to jump three times and I swear the only thing on me that moved in an upward direction were my rolls of fat. I don’t even think my feet left the ground. Friend laughed so hard at me that she fell off the porch (It was funny!).
I’m a bit leery of the foliage growing around my car and had a rather large branch fall on top of it several weeks ago. Those limbs were removed but more trimming is needed, but no one can agree on who owns the property where the trees are located, so until they figure it out, I’ll be parking in the front yard.
Or on second thought, I’ll park underneath the basketball hoop—if I stand on top of my car, I might just be able to touch the backboard. (Just don’t ask me to jump up…or down….)
And if you are keeping up with my one hundred days of writing this summer, I am happy to say that as of this writing which is day 77, I have added 77,000 words to my various projects. Only 23 days (and yes, I am counting) to go.