OPINION: Sheryl Knows Best

mother hugging with her teen daughter outdoor in nature on sunny day

There are few places I’ve avoided more over the years … the dentist, the gynecologist, family dinners with my in-laws. So one day this past summer, when my older daughter suggested I might join her for some “much needed time on the elliptical” (I tried not to read too much into this) before entering (deepest of deep breaths — and squats) the gym.

To leave the couch or not to leave the couch, that was the question and the comfort of my coffee and HGTV. “They have cable there,” she assured me, and a “really cute coffee shop” on the way.

She’d been staying with my parents for the summer, working at a snack shack, enjoying the fresh country club air and apparently a really nice gym membership, living the good life of an only child. (I remember it well). “Do you miss your sister?” I asked.

She held the door for me. “Do people miss Hurricane Katrina?”

I’m really not prepared for this whole empty nest thing. Not that my nest will be empty any time soon or clean or even remotely quiet but with one away at camp and the other getting a real-life dose of why no one should ever aspire to work in food service, I was definitely feeling broody and … I’ll just come right out and say it — fat — in that overhead lighting, those full-length mirrors and spandex that, for the love of Richard Simmons, made me look like an overstuffed stew hen.

“Come on,” she said, grabbing a bottle of disinfectant off the cart, handing me one. “For the machines.”

“Right,” I replied, trying to sound nonchalant, non-mom-like and like I wasn’t about to spray my own shoes down because, let me put your mind at ease, I totally was.

We walked up the stairs. Everyone was young, or at least younger than me, or at least the same age but spandex ready and I sooooo wasn’t up for this … this sweating, and machine-disinfecting, and is Sheryl Crow really the best choice workout music? All I wanna do is have a little fun before I die and death, let me tell you, definitely felt imminent after I sanitized everything, which really was like a workout in and of itself.

I’m not sure, quite frankly how I managed but somehow I hoisted myself up onto that exercise bike (couldn’t handle the elliptical), and I was off to the races or out to pasture at the speed I was going, trying to ignore all the youthful, dewy gazelles around me, my own daughter running so fast, I swear I saw smoke coming out of that treadmill.

At least I had my phone to distract me and the promise of a really killer latte, because you know what was a real killer? Um, exercising after a decade. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that long, but close — but also definitely far back enough for me to be able to laugh not so quietly about the time I joined Curves after Treadmill Trudy was born (I still have them along with 17 years of baby weight).

Or how about when I thought I was going to be all earthy-crunchy and holistic and take exactly one very beginner level yoga class never to be able to upward from that downward, doggone puzzle of a pose again, and you know I really admire women who have the determination, who carve out time to make running, for example, a priority. I, myself jogged around the block in our old neighborhood by the Wilton Historical Society exactly once and when I say jogged, I’m pretty sure I was actually walking and just thinking about running and every so often, I would kind of lift my knees a little higher or sigh (heavily) or stop for a water break, especially when a car drove by just so I could look like I was exerting myself.

“You’re doing great, Mom,” she said.

I smiled. (Warm mother/daughter moment) “Thanks.”

“Now you can actually, you know…start pedaling?”

“Of course. Right. I knew that,” I said. Had I really just spent the last 15 minutes finishing my Whole Foods order? It wasn’t like I was trying to avoid exercise or anything or that I had some sort of “bicyclaphobia” (say it how you see it) or that this sudden interest in getting fit and fitting into my pre-Curves spandex was really just a flimsy excuse to spend time with my girl who I was missing more than life itself because not having her at home all summer was kinda like as painful as the dentist or uncomfortable as the gynecologist or no, nevermind … nothing really does compare to family dinner with my in-laws.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.