Yoga Toes

I lay on my back in my yoga class, legs sticking straight up in the air. “Rotate your ankles and find every number on the clock,” said the instructor. I automatically sent each ankle rotating in opposite directions, unable to get them to agree, and the clock image dissolved in confusion.

“Now flex your feet and fan out your toes,” she continued.

I looked at toes and willed them to move. Up and down, yes, but sideways? I imagined them staring back at me in bewilderment.

“Now, for many of you your toes won’t move,” Inez said reassuringly. “That’s fine; just keep on sending that message. Someday, believe it or not, your toes will start listening.”

I concentrated hard on my toes like a fledgling mage trying to learn telekinesis. “Agite, molesti digiti!” Latin commands work in Harry Potter, after all. But my Latin is in my brain, not my toes, and there’s no connection in any language.

“Now hug your knees into your chest.” I breathed deeply in relief and earned an approving smile from Inez. Breathing is good too. But my mind wasn’t ready to move on.

“Keep sending the message, and someday your toes will listen.” What a great analogy for parenting.

My children are grown now; my youngest is about to graduate from college, the middle is a doctor who has the right to give us advice, and the oldest has just become a father. And finally my husband and I see some of those toes responding to the messages we’ve been sending.

I read to all three from day one, and they all learned to read fluently by age four. Tim had an argument with his kindergarten teacher; she wanted him to make his own alphabet book by pasting pictures on construction paper to go with each letter, and he wanted to go off in a corner to read Charlotte’s Web. He won. But the lure of television and later the Internet was major competition for mere books, and the high school curriculum of seriously depressing classics didn’t help matters. Jon agonized over Red Badge of Courage in 8th grade,  and Tim hated analyzing existential poetry. One year my daughter Robin listed the books she was required to read–every single one ended with the main character committing either murder or suicide. But the messages I kept sending did make it through. My sons did return to reading for fun after college, and Robin had an inspiring teacher in high school who opened her eyes to the world of film.  I can’t complain that she prefers film to books now that she is determined to become a screenwriter.

They all love to travel. I went to Europe for the first time when I was ten, a glorious romp through five countries with castles, cathedrals, and people speaking different languages. it cemented my love of all things historical, especially medieval; I’ll confess that I chose the University of Chicago for college because I fell in love with the gargoyles on the pseudo-Gothic buildings. I began studying Latin at age 12 and German at 15 because the two together are the basis of all European languages. I wanted to know what all those people were saying. So I made sure to plant the travel bug in all of my children. Jon went to Switzerland with his great aunt at 14; then he became fluent in Italian and cemented his friendship with his future wife Ramona on a trip to Italy.  They’ve been traveling together ever since. Next month Tim is off to Africa on a medical trip, and he’ll celebrate his 30th birthday on a safari in Zambia. That should be a bit less demanding than the time he cycled the coast of Italy and made up the calories eating pizza, and perhaps less dangerous than his adventures running with the bulls in Pamplona. Robin, who grew up along with Harry Potter, went on a People To People trip to Harry Potter sites in England and Scotland at 11 and to Costa Rica with her Spanish class at 13. She wants a trip to Europe for her graduation present.

Perhaps because of that traveling, all three are compassionate liberal progressives in politics. Travel shows that there are many ways to live and think, many ways to view the miracles of life and creation, and there is no one right way to journey through life on this planet.  My children came of age in a time of increasing acceptance for equal rights. Same sex marriage, increasing equality for women in the workplace, and Barack Obama are all signs that their generation is more accepting of differences and the future looks bright. We couldn’t be happier that Jon’s wife is a gorgeous Persian woman who has introduced us to a whole new culture, including gormeh sabzi and fesenjan, and that our red-headed Irish son has a baby who won’t sunburn as easily as he does.

But I hope the most important message I have sent is that they should follow their passions and find their true talents. I hope their searches are simpler than mine has been, but at least I’ve been a model of someone exploring many interests and finally coming to love who I am—someone who loves to keep learning and will never settle down to specialize in anything.

And with that, I announce the migration of this blog which has strayed far from Women’s Solo Retreats to another entitled The Eclectic Tutor. The adventures of this Renaissance woman continue at eclectictutor.wordpress.com.

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