Tuesday, September 04, 2012

An Uplifting Family Experience

BST intern Zoe Travis taught her family to walk on stilts at their family reunion - and they loved it!

            The moment Michael heard I was leaving the office early for a family reunion, he immediately started to assemble a “to-go” stilt bag. I would be going to a gathering of family members of all ages, from all over the country, who only see each other every couple of years- of course I had to bring the stilts! In a magically compact bag, Michael threw in my fancy, newly crafted personal stilts, two extra stilts, stilt pants, and some juggling balls (just in case). I managed to lug it all to Penn Station and arrived, stilts in tow, in Lyme, New Hampshire the next day.
          Lets just say, that the Travis Family Reunion of 2012 will forever be remembered as the time when every single one of us, ages 12-70, learned how to walk on stilts. Once word had spread that I brought stilts to the reunion, everyone jumped at the opportunity to give it a try. The night before our “big stilt lesson” many people were skeptical and said they would never be able to take steps on their own. But I am proud to say that it was only a matter of minutes before until most of my family members were prancing around, forming kick lines, and showing off their dance moves. For a family that doesn’t have much contact throughout the year, it was very clear that we still have a lot in common. The Travis’s are stubborn, competitive, and determined to get it right. Throughout it all we were supportive, encouraging, and ready to learn.
             Throughout the weekend, stilts remained a major topic of conversation. Everyone had so much to say! I asked my relatives to reflect on the experience, and here is Uncle Mark's response:

Zoe taught her entire family to join her up on stilts!
"At first I thought there was no way that I would be able to keep my balance, and that I would topple like a dead tree. But when I saw one family member after the other not only manage the stills but with great pride launch out on their own without support ... I knew it was possible and way more than desirable. I was hooked. So when it came to my turn I felt those old fears and trepidations creep in and those little voices saying, "what are you thinking", "you're doomed", but with Zoe's unending encouragement (by this time she was wandering around on her stilts, looking magnificent in her long black pants) I hoisted myself up. 

The first sensation was pretty much what I expected. No balance, no security, just hold on tight to everything within your grasp and you'll get through without major embarrassment. But then I took a few steps and I felt this rush of courage and conviction. Watching Zoe hover above me on her much longer stilts with that glorious smile on her face gave me the last bit of courage that I needed. And without thinking I let go of my two handlers and ventured out on my own. Wow. I felt like a giraffe. Maybe a baby giraffe, but a giraffe all the same. With wobbly legs, every core muscle tightening in response to the new challenges, I took bigger and bigger steps. 

 And then I decided to turn. And turn I did. And then I found myself just rocking back and forth, foot to foot, stick to stick - just like I had seen Zoe do so gracefully. And it was in that moment that I knew I was totally on my own. That I had accomplished something that I had never seen as possible. A new experience of independence, floating high above the masses feeling oddly empowered. 

I think my favorite part of my short stilt-walk was when I was dancing with Zoe. One, two, three, Kick. One, two, three, Kick. A beautiful moment of abandonment, fearlessly dancing on two sticks. A great metaphor for how we could all live. Maybe we are more secure when we place ourselves at the edge of disaster, maybe we are more connected if we elevate ourselves, not so we can be better seen, but so we can see better. Maybe we will slow down and be in the moment when we can't move so fast and when every muscle in our body is focussed on staying upright. Maybe...

Thanks you, Zoe. It was a moment I will cherish forever.  Cheers, Mark"

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