At Large in Ballard: Moment in old Ballard

By Peggy Sturdivant

A longtime friend told me last summer to stop trying to keep up with my twenty-two year-old daughter. Is it because Emily seems so serious in my company that I have to play teenager? Or am I trying to prove that I am different from my mother, who was younger when I was born than when I had Emily. So while I am climbing onto the roof of a college building or in yoga I’m thinking, I’m different than my mother.

Could anything be more foolish?

When I started climbing at Stone Gardens was it love of the sport, desire to be un-like my mother or desire to be one of my daughter’s peers? My attempts to learn to ride a unicycle after virtually every elementary school student in Ballard made it look effortless? And then there was the “yoga retreat.”

But let tell you a little about my mother. It’s not that she isn’t stronger than me, more energetic, even more engaged in the world with a similar desire to act as “concierge” to friends, family and strangers. She is all that. She’s the woman who hangs out wash in freezing temperatures, recycled since before the invention of the word and collected more signatures on a petition for a bottle refund than any other volunteer last summer. She just has a different build, taller, and yes, heavier.

My daughter and I take after my father’s side, wiry little legs and inclined to shrink with every passing year. I acquired my father’s athletic build and competitiveness but lack any hand-eye coordination or athletic talent whatsoever. I have been trying to overcompensate for the last 20 years; since approximately the time Emily could run faster than me at age two.

Whenever Emily’s soccer coach would try to get me to scrimmage with the team at practice I knew not to become part one with the muddy fields of Ballard Youth Soccer. I had more sense back then.

When Emily finally returned to Ballard for the first time in 2013 her goals were to replace a Driver’s License, work on internship applications and create her own ‘yoga retreat.’ Think ‘staycation.’ Within twelve hours of her arrival she’d joined Ballard Health Club for the month and had already been to a yoga class. I’d also purchased her a two-week pass at Kula Movement on Ballard Avenue, and one for myself of course. At a Ballard Chamber of Commerce lunch the sister owners announced a holiday special of two weeks unlimited classes for $20.00. Their drop-in rate starts at $15 for one class. How could we not do it? (In this way, I am my mother).

Doesn’t everyone like to have a vacation theme? Cemeteries of New England? Whiskey trail of Scotland? Water towers of the Midwest? Yoga till you drop? Emily’s theme was to attend as many yoga classes per day as possible, preferably those with heated studios or saunas. What was I going to do, sit at home? We weren’t the only mother-daughter pair in the locker room. One day in class there were three generations next to one another on mats in front of us. The similarity was in the cock of their heads, like birds at different stages but unmistakably the same species.

Perhaps the only thing that saved my body was that sometimes I couldn’t attend a class with her. For example the night that I spent meeting a kitten that was being fostered through Animal Talk Rescue. It was the foggiest night of the holidays. I joined another car double-parked in front of Kula Movement facing the bell tower on Ballard Avenue. The studio window was dark so I knew that inside they were lying in corpse pose. Outside was like being part of a Hitchcock film. A person on foot would just appear out of the fog. All sounds were muffled and there were no other cars.

Ahead of me sat the bell tower, alit and flanked by the trees wrapped in colorful lights. It was as though time was standing still. The town hall was gone but its columns and bell returned. Even the sleeker cars seemed to recede until it could have been the early 20th century, Ballard perhaps still its own city. Everything ugly, in my line of vision or in my thoughts, vanished. Then the bell rang. Every time I hear the bell, it makes me happy.

For a few minutes during the sprint of the holidays I sat very still, shrouded by the fog and not on a mat. It was this year’s holiday moment, knowing that dinner was waiting at home, a kitten would be joining us the next day, my daughter was close by and would soon be coming out to join me.

By the next day I was rushing again, following her into strange poses and studios with teachers new to us. I should have stopped before her friends cancelled on Monday night square dancing at The Tractor Tavern. “Yoga!” Emily yelled, checking the schedule, and we hurled ourselves out the door, into the car and onto the mat with less than ten minutes from door-to-door.

Which is why I’m limping now, with shooting pains in my knee that I hope will not be my first limps toward knee replacement. My daughter has gone back to finish her Master’s. Every muscle in my body feels stiff and sore. I tried to keep up, but as always she was going to leave me behind, the worse for wear. I can return to accepting the ways in which I am my mother, unread newspapers piled at my side, new kitten on my lap, heart muscle stronger, but with the memory of that timeless moment in the fog.

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