Something unusual happened in our water aerobics class.
I had fun. I had fun participating in something resembling a sport.
So what? Well, here's the big deal: I don't think that has happened since elementary school.
I loved physical activity back then. Sports, even. Soccer, kickball, dodge ball, volley ball, gymnastics, trampoline. I even enjoyed the since-much-maligned Presidents Physical Fitness test. I was one of the best in school at swarming up a rope to the ceiling. After school, the neighborhood kids played active games, usually until dark. I was reasonably strong and fit—most children were, in those days—and loved active play.
What happened? Don't say I got old, or busy, though of course I did both. Don't blame it on phones or computers; this was long before these became part of my life.
Physical activity changed. Sports changed. Most people adapted; I didn't.
Back in my day, soccer wasn't the organized sport it is today for even the youngest. We had goals, we had a ball, we had a few basic rules (e.g. "no hands"), and we had a gaggle of kids roughly organized into two "teams." What we did, what I loved, was to run madly up and down the field, trying to kick the ball into the goal. Except for goalie, there were no assigned positions; it was literally a free-for-all. No one today would deign to call it soccer. But it sure was fun.
Volleyball was similar. Again, we had two teams—their composition always changing—a net, a ball, and a few basic rules. But no assigned positions. Serving, but little setting. Just a madcap "let's hit the ball over the net." And I loved it.
For many other people, the eventual organization of sports, honing of skills, multiplication of rules and tactics, and emphasis on competition made the games more fun. The rest of us, I guess, simply dropped out, to the detriment of both our physical and our mental health.
Which is why I was so excited when our instructor suddenly decided that Thursdays would be play days. She gave us small beach balls, and paddles, and organized us very loosely in games of no recognizable sport, but which—in groups, in pairs, and individually—challenged us to use our muscles in ways we hadn't used in a long time: reaching, jumping, running; increasing our strength, agility, and hand-eye coordination—all those things that sports are good for.
Perhaps best of all, when we played together, we became people to each other, not just a group of individuals gathered for healthful exercise. We looked at each other, we made eye contact, we worked together to make sure everyone was included and benefitting.
I was a kid again.