I took Avalon to the park today. It was a shorts-in-the-shade kind of day. We sat in the feathery shadow of a young palm tree that resembled Avalon’s ponytail. I tried to distract her from eating grass and dried pieces of mud by rolling a ball, but the wind was distracting me. It made me think about the first time we came here together before she was born. It was warm then too and the wind blew the dust offshore which made the sunset look like it had been painted onto the sky with smashed wild berries. Scott and I walked around the whole park until the sky was black and we had seen all the RC planes takeoff at least once.
The first time Avalon could see this park with her own eyes, I plugged her carseat into the stroller and attempted to walk one loop before she was hungry or crying. I remember figuring out that as a two and a half month old she liked to be awake for one hour and then go back to sleep. I found this out because I nervously unsnapped my top next to the dog park and unsuccessfully tried to feed her next to a black poodle and a lady dressed in khaki who said “It all goes by so fast”. It turned out Avalon just wanted to sleep in the stroller. Now I push her on the swings and she squeals every time she comes towards me; what a rush.
Today I had my skateboard stashed in the bottom of the stroller. When I put it there I figured we’d just cruise by the blue-tiled bowl at the skatepark and check to see if it was empty. It wasn’t. Instead there were about twelve inked-up dudes sitting around the bowl not wearing any pads. The distant smell of cigarette smoke made the whole thing seem dangerous. Everyone was dressed in black or not wearing t-shirts at all and here we were, this mom with a bright blue helmet and a baby with bright blue eyes. But I knew I had to skate.
Once everyone had taken their turn, I put my board on one section of the coping and looked over the edge. Too steep. I scooted it to another section. Was it always this steep? I stepped back, then smiled and played with Avalon trying to act like I wasn’t totally tripping on my own fear. Three other guys went around grinding coping corners and doing disasters in the deep-end. When a guy with a beanie kicked out, I asked him if the spot I had backed away from was the the easiest place to drop in. “In this pool? Yeah, there.” he said, pointing.
I put the tail of my board up to the coping and basically blacked out, ignoring the voice that told me I would fall, that told me my postpartum hair was like straw and my stomach was flabby, that made me worry about Maddie’s cancer, that reminded me I wasn’t wearing my wrist guards and that my baby was just sitting in her stroller surrounded by a bunch of people that I’d never let babysit.
I made it to the bottom with both feet on my board, but the speed caught me off guard and I yard-saled across the concrete—board and body parts flying everywhere. Exactly what they thought I’d do. But then I heard the faint tapping of boards, the skateboarder way of cheering and encouraging another rider, that gradually increased and mixed with a few whistles. I made eye contact with no one except Avalon who was chewing her stroller strap like nothing had happened as I climbed out of the bottom of the bowl. Maybe I’m not totally unwelcome here after all.
I thought about leaving. Of course I considered it, especially since there was a distinct throbbing in the right shoulder of the arm I used to carry someone who needs me more than anyone ever has, but I wasn’t going leave like that. No way. Not for me, not for Avalon, not for all women and moms maybe. I wasn’t hurt enough. I thought about what I needed to do next time. I’d put too much pressure on my back foot before. I needed to absorb the speed from the drop more evenly between both feet.
Once it was my turn again, I stepped up to the side of the bowl and slid my board over the edge. I placed my front foot determinedly on the rusty front bolts and made eye contact with the concrete. I leaned forward, absorbing the speed and impact with both legs. I made it, then directed my board around the deep-end in a drawn-out curve that was subtle like my smile. I’m sure it was the least impressive thing these skaters had seen all week, but there it was again–the building sound of tapping wooden skateboards echoing around all corners of the bowl as I rode.