The year was 1990.
I was in sixth grade.
P.E. class was an awkward mess of polyester gym shorts and high-top sneakers left over from the eighties. Our teacher, Mr. Zook, divided the year into units: the scooter unit, the basketball unit, the Presidential Fitness Award unit, and so on. My two favorites were the gymnastics and the parachute units.
During the gymnastics unit, Mr. Zook set up a â€œWild Jungleâ€ obstacle course that we would navigate, getting rope-burn from the â€œEnchanted Swinging Vines,â€ waddling across the parallel bar â€œBridge of Danger,â€ and leaping clumsily over â€œBig Bertha,â€ a foreboding elephant made out of a mounting horse and several red tumbling mats. In broad daylight, we wise sixth graders would have seen this exercise as insultingly immature, but Mr. Zook was no fool and he dimmed the lights, transforming a make-shift obstacle course into a truly wild jungle.
However, the wild jungle wasnâ€™t nearly as enchanting as the parachute unit! We glowed with anticipation the day the large silky parachute lay across the gymnasium floor. With Mr. Zookâ€™s â€œokay,â€ weâ€™d circle the parachute, grab two handfuls of silk and listen for his instructions.
â€œOn the count of three, letâ€™s raise our arms to the sky!â€ The parachute would rise above our heads and weâ€™d look up at its silky underbelly, giggling at the secrecy we felt by standing under its shadow.
Then, â€œShake your hands up and down!â€ The parachute would jiggle and ripple above our heads as we worked together to create sheer magic. Even the most sophisticated sixth graders fell into the enchantment of the jiggling parachute.
â€œNow, on the count of three, pull the edge of the parachute down to the ground. One, two, three!â€ As the silk slapped against the air, weâ€™d pull our small section down, squatting on the gym floor, admiring the beautiful silky dome weâ€™d just created together. This was unity.
This was beauty.
That year, the temptation was simply too much for me. I gently released my fists-full of fabric, stepped back, and took a running leap into the middle of the billowing dome.
Freeze Frame: Picture sweet little side-pony-tailed Laura in polyester blue gym shorts suspended in mid-air; feet kicked back, arms joyfully raised to the sky, head thrown back in anticipation.
Unfreeze, and hear my sweet little knees smash into the hardwood floor as the parachute implodes under my body. One look at my face would tell you that I had just learned a very valuable lesson: that everything that looks like a fluffy billowing pillow, isnâ€™t a fluffy billowing pillow.
“…test everything; hold fast to that which is good.” 1 Thess. 5:21