I couldn't potty train Avery. She had no interest. No desire. I would attempt to make going potty on the toilet the most exciting thing ever and she would stare at me as if I were a potato sitting on the counter.
And then, when she was almost 4 years old, she stood mesmerized in front of the television set watching gymnastics, something she had never before seen. Through her mostly incoherent speech, she told me she wanted to do that. "Too bad," I said. "You can't learn gymnastics until you're potty trained. They don't allow diapers in the gym."
She stared silent at the TV, taking in every movement of the entire routine playing out in front of her. Then she turned, walked into the bathroom, and went potty on the toilet.
And that was it. No accidents. No problems with bed wetting. She was decidedly done with diapers and ready to learn gymnastics.
She was never the best, never the stand out. But she did give 110% at every practice. She would go home and practice bridge kick-overs off the couch for hours at a time. She was scared to death of the height of the balance beam but still, she got on it. She loved flying from one bar to the next; where I saw the shaky nervousness of an unsure body, she felt only the graceful fluidity of a soul in flight.
We would find ourselves at a new youth program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater called the GymHawks Youth Gymnastics Program... and it would change our lives.
The GymHawks program is awesome because the kids train in the same gym as the college gymnastics team. Side by side. And the college girls coach the young girls. And nothing is more exciting to a young, impressionable girl that being coach by the young lady whose picture graces the poster in the hall, whose stats are updated on the Internet, and who travels the country competing with other universities. The coaches worked the girls hard and the girls worked hard for their coaches.
Avery was in heaven in that gym. The coaches were her friends. She knew more details about them - how many had big sisters, who struggled with their beam routine, and who couldn't get enough Flamin' Hot Cheetos.
Avery went to three separate weeks of summer camp that was held on the UW-W campus. She loved each and every week. She was a bit homesick and would spend more time in the coaches rooms than in her own. It made her feel incredibly special. I apologized to the coaches, afraid Avery was intruding and overstaying her visit to their rooms, but they assured me they loved Avery. That she was welcome any time.
|Photo Credit: Allison Annala|
Avery planned on attending UW-Whitewater and being part of the college gymnastics team. She, too, was going to coach. "And then, when kids get homesick, I can tell them that I know how that feels because I was homesick, too." That girl has my heart.
Some of the young ladies from the college team attended Avery's visitation and funeral. My heart soared when I saw them. Avery would be so beyond thrilled to know they came all this way to see her! And then my heart fell to the floor. Avery would be so thrilled... if she were here.
On January 26, 2013, the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Gymnastics Team hosted their first home meet. They were going to honor Avery. Oh, how Avery would love to be the center of the Gymnastics Team's attention, I thought. It took every ounce of strength I had buried in me to walk into that building. That was the last place Avery was on earth. She left the gym... and died.
I walked down the hall and saw all these beautiful, amazing, talented young women sporting purple All Day AVERY Day shirts -- how is it possible to feel so much gratitude and so much loneliness at one time? I just wanted Avery there. I wanted her to sit by me. I wanted to listen as she told me the names of every single person on the team, the names of their siblings and whether or not they had a dog growing up. I missed her so much I couldn't breathe.
|Photo Credit: Allison Annala|
I hope these girls understand how amazing they are.
They would go on and set two school records to win.
Avery was definitely in that gym.
I've tried to blog about this day so many times and what it meant to me; but there comes a time when too many tears can block a keyboard for far too long. If you want to know a bit more about that precious, precious day, please read THIS AMAZING BLOG POST from Avery's coach. (I'm pretty sure you can see my joyful/anguish face in the photo.)