#35: Daring Young Moms on the Flying Trapeze

July 18th, 2012

The young mother in the severe ponytail and blue-white workout clothes stepped up to the ledge, adjusted her grip and leapt, sailing off into the sky.

As a man below whipped harness ropes and hurled incomprehensible commands that sounded as meaning-laden and guttural as an ox driver’s “gee” and “haw,” the woman swung by the hanging bar, kicking her legs as one to build up speed.

At another guttural command, she flipped. Now hanging by her knees, she swung a few more times to build momentum. Then she let go, flying into the air followed shortly by the net below.

As she flipped off the net to the ground, another woman climbed the thin ladder to the ledge. This one was younger, maybe mid 20s compared to the first flier’s late 30s. She repeated the performance, leaping into the sky and landing in a boingy net. A third came up, a blonde one definitely in her 40s. She did the same, telling the rope-whipping instructor as she landed, “That wasn’t very good.”

Flying from 50-foot riggings that mocked and outclassed the sailboats docked in Belmont Harbor a dozen yards away, these women were learning trapeze.

There were men, too — a few of them. But most of the crowd of about 10 or 12 were women of the fit middle-aged category. These were the moms who jog, and apparently flip from trapeze.

“How was it?” I called to the first mom as she sat with the rest of the group, eating baked goods someone had brought.

“How was what?” a different mom called back.

This mom was the spit of the first, down to the brown ponytail and workout clothes. I thought her response was remarkably sassy for someone straight from a Ford Explorer Sport commercial, but I decided to respond in kind.

“Your water bottle,” I said. “No, the trapeze!”

The look on her face told me I was the ass. She honestly didn’t know what I could have been interested enough to ask about.

“We do this every week,” chimed in the blonde one who previously said her turn wasn’t very good.

“There’s information over there,” the first mom said, pointing to a box of fliers hanging from the chain-link fence surrounding the rigging. “You can take a class. That’s how we started.”

“And now you do it every week?” I asked.

She nodded.

Every Tuesday evening, as the sunlight goes acute over Lake Michigan and the fancy sailboats of Belmont Harbor, these women (and a few men) flip and fly and soar like Wallendas.

They bring baked goods and chat when not flying — it’s their social hour. If you ask without context, they don’t assume you’re asking about the trapeze — that’s how normal flinging themselves through the air has become.

The joggers jog and the bikers bike and these few soar for a precious few moments before they tumble downward through summer skies.

Sorta makes you feel bad about skipping that morning run, huh?

Talk about this story

Read about a different strange lakefront pastime

Want to take trapeze lessons?

What's this?

You are currently reading #35: Daring Young Moms on the Flying Trapeze by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • -30-