In October, I went back to an aerobics class that I used to frequent before child. I remember trying to go during the first trimester of my pregnancy four years ago, struggling to keep up with the class, while keeping my heart rate below 140 and not letting anyone know that my rapidly spreading ass and increasingly puss-filled face were not just the result of a spike in my candy corn consumption, but a pregnancy.
My relationship with the class ended with a whimper, not a bang. Slowly, I migrated from the aerobics room to the cardio machines and, as the numbers on the scale migrated up above two hundred pounds, I stopped going to the gym altogether.
Walking in on this recent Wednesday morning in October, after an absence of nearly four years, I was excited and nervous. Not only was I thrilled to be reminded that, for some reason, there is a spot deep in my soul that is touched so tenderly by pop music sped up to maximize caloric burn, I was elated that my teacher, Laura, actually remembered me and remembered that my birthday had been the week before.
I was reminded that one of my favorite things in life is to see someone I’ve not seen for sometime and have that person notice my weight-loss. (Perhaps this is the reason I have gained and lost weight so many times — the recognition is immensely gratifying to me.) After Laura and some of the familiar faces who remembered me from the before-time showered me with skinniness praise, Laura threw me in the center of the room with the other October birthdays and had the whole class sing happy birthday to us. We hadn’t even really started exercising yet and it was already the best day I’d had in quite some time.
Since October, I have been back to the class about half a dozen times. I cheer and holler and “woot-woot!” along with the sweaty hoards of grandmas and muscle-bound middle-aged men who join us to take a break from the weight room. In the inexplicable way that I am moved to tears at baseball games when we all stand at the seventh inning stretch (even if I don’t know who the teams are or which one of of them is winning), my heart sings (and beats heavily) in my chest as I prance and cavort with all these sweaty strangers engulfed in Madonna songs sped up to chipmunk-esque squeakiness.
During last week’s class, while wearing a sparkly santa hat, Laura told us that one of the women who had been taking classes with her for upwards of a decade was battling cancer, and that there was a card circulating that we could all sign to wish her well. Swallowing the lump in the back of her throat, she then announced the upcoming holiday party where everyone would participate in a shortened workout and then gorge themselves on an elaborate potluck provided by all the class members. After singing happy birthday to the December birthdays, we dove again into our pop music saturated calorie burn.
I never could have imagined that an aerobics class would make me so flippin’ happy — so alive, but it does, even when no one is telling me I am skinny or singing happy birthday to me. My heart sings (and throbs) as I jump and grapevine and sweat. I am glad to be alive, to be here with these familiar strangers and to celebrate life with them, whether or not I know their names. Thank you, Laura.