As you read this, you should have these two songs in your mind: the Village People’s YMCA, and Sarah McLachlan’s I Will Remember You. There are a lot more that make up my YMCA soundtrack, but these two are key for this post.
Last night, I taught my very last YMCA fitness class for at least the next few years.
I’m not sure why I didn’t write about the closure of my beloved South Park Y in the spring. Maybe it’s because by the time the big sad last day arrived, I was exhausted by three months of ramping up to the tearful farewell.
Anyone who belongs to the Y knows it’s not just a gym. It’s a community. It’s a friend. It’s been a constant in my life for 12 years…and that’s a mere blink compared to the many who’ve been members for 20, 30, 40 or more years.
The Y helped me survive the loss of a brother and a marriage. When I didn’t feel I could go home, the Y was my home, my safe place. I don’t know what I would have done without it through those difficult times. Everyone at the Y seems to have a story like this.
It’s also been an outlet for the side of me that loves moving to music. I had the pleasure of goofing around to good tunes in my aerobics and aquafit classes, motivating people to work hard while having a ball. There were theme classes and treats for most holidays. I once taught the Halloween class in a floor-length blue sequined dress with devil tail and horns, complete with the Mitch Ryder song.
I didn’t mind that the building was old. As one of my participants said, it was a mutt, but it was our mutt. So while we look forward to a shiny new facility, we miss our old friend, and wish it didn’t have to be demolished to make way for the new.
What do you do when you have to say goodbye? You celebrate the good times. So we made a big hooplah of our last days. We had a pool party for the aquafitters. We had a huge aerobics class in the gym with current and former instructors.
I stashed my old bathing suit above a ceiling tile in the locker room so it would go down with the ship, and pilfered a loose piece of wood from the gym floor. A pile of us were in the building just before closing. I held back the tears right up until the last 10 minutes when the lifeguards presented me with a sign for the women’s locker room with their signatures on the back.
We woke up the next morning feeling a bit lost without our old friend. I at least had a summer of teaching my regular Monday night class in a new space at the Community Y. One auqafit instructor has secured a class in a different pool where our gang can still connect. I have a new place for my own workout but still haven’t managed to create a new routine there. I don’t feel like I belong.
The final blow came yesterday as I learned that the Community Y needs its space back for its basketball program. I understand – kids in that community need all the benefits of the basketball program far more than we more privileged folks need our aerobics class.
Management wasn’t able to secure any other space for us, and while we might be able to get instructors and participants back together through a different organization come January, we have nothing for now. So last night, I taught my very last YMCA fitness class for at least a few years.
Maybe there’s a silver lining. My achilles is acting up, so a few months of forced rest from jumping around and lots of aquafit instead (as a participant) may be just what the physiotherapist ordered.
I will keep my chin up. I’ll soldier on and get my spirit, mind and body aligned.
But right now, I feel like I’ve lost my best friend all over again.