Two weeks ago I was chatting with one of my co-workers, and asked him about his plans for the upcoming holiday weekend. He said something about bouncing, and I looked at him quizzically. “What about bouncing?” I asked. “Are you going to one of the indoor trampoline gyms or something?” His eyes lit up, and he said rather enthusiastically, “Oh, do you not know about the bouncing group I participate in? It’s the oldest organization in the city!” He then spun around to his computer, and quickly pulled up the website of the St. Paul Bouncing Team. He showed me a video of a group of men holding on to a circular blanket, a woman sitting in the middle of it, and then with a “one-two-three” count the men catapulting the woman into the air (where she did the splits before landing back in the center of the blanket). Holy crap. It looked a little scary, but mostly very cool. My eyes widened, and I said, “That is so awesome!”
My colleague then showed me a few pictures of various local celebrities getting tossed up into the air. “Wait a minute,” I said. “You’ll do that to anybody?” He responded that the group has bounced lots of different people. Of course it’s better if the person being bounced is smaller (for obvious reasons; tossing a small woman up in the air induces less strain than trying to heave a larger individual), but for some special events, the group has bounced men on the ‘heftier’ side of the scale, as well as various mascots. (Yes, that’s right – the group has bounced people in full costume.) “So, if I were to randomly show up at one of your events, would I get bounced?” I asked, half joking and half serious. My colleague responded, “Oh, we would totally bounce you,” in a half-kidding tone. I looked at him and asked, “Really?” now fully serious. He paused, looked at me with some surprise, and then replied, “Yeah, we would totally bounce you,” now also serious. He then looked at the group’s appearance schedule, and said, “Our next event is the Defeat of Jesse James celebration; we’re in the Sunday parade at 2 pm. Have you ever been?”
Talk about the stars aligning – I have participated in the 5K race that takes place the morning of the parade for the past several years (along with my sweetie, my mother-in-law, and my brothers-in-law). Earlier that week my sweetie sent in our race registrations for this year’s event, so I was already planning on participating in some of the festivities. I looked at my co-worker and answered, “I have gone to DJJD for the past few years – and I’m going to be there this year, too.” I started grinning broadly. This whole bouncing thing might actually work out…
My colleague looked at my beaming face. “Well, if you show up at the parade prep location at 1 pm, the guys and I will bounce you,” he offered, also grinning. I think he didn’t realize 1) that I would be curious about such an endeavor, and 2) that I possessed the sense of adventure and spirit to actually do it.
So that is how I came to find myself in the middle of a fireman’s rescue blanket circled by men on a sunny, warm Sunday in September.
My sweetie and I had spent the morning participating in the 5K run/walk (along with his mom, brother, and our 8-year-old nephew), having brunch with some of my in-law family, and taking a tour of the bank that Jesse James and his crew attempted to rob (where our other nephew was presenting part of the story to visitors). My sweetie and I then parted from the rest of the group, had lunch, and made our way to the local high school parking lot – where members of the bouncing team were scheduled to convene at 1 pm in preparation for the parade.
At 1:15 pm my coworker arrived, and he introduced my sweetie and I to everyone. My colleague and I then exchanged small talk while we waited for more guys to show up. (Fourteen men are needed to work the blanket in order to bounce a person.) Ten minutes passed, then twenty. I felt bad for my sweetie – I was taking up a significant portion of his Sunday afternoon on opening football weekend, for what would ultimately be a 30-second experience for me. But he was a champ, as always; have I mentioned lately how incredibly lucky I am to be married to such a great guy?
But I digress; back to the story. Around 1:45 pm the 14th man arrived, and the group then began doing warm-ups – i.e., tossing the female members of the group high into the air:
After about five minutes of practice, my colleague called out to me, “Stef, you’re up!” I received a rapid (30-second) briefing from one of the female members of the group who told me what to do: keep my body facing her the entire time, keep my hands on the blanket when I make contact with it, and land in a seated position as much as possible. After my ‘lesson’ in bouncing I took a breath, and ran towards the experience:
If you listen closely at the beginning of the clip, you can hear my colleague saying, “She wants to go high!” After 10 practice bounces (to get me used to the feeling of getting air between my body and the blanket), the guys started their chant: “One, two, up she goes!” and then WHOOM! I felt myself FLYING in the air.
I did my best to stay upright and in a cross-legged position during the very high toss – but it’s not as easy to do as it might seem. I felt myself tilting to one side at the peak of the throw – and if you look closely at the video you can see me landing sideways on the blanket.
The entire bouncing experience lasted for about 20 seconds; but they were some pretty amazing 20 seconds. As I left the blanket, I felt my heart racing – and my face grinning very, very wide. The feeling of getting tossed into the air that high (and seeing what looks like a very small blanket beneath you) is pretty indescribable. It’s a mixture of buoyancy, adventure, fear, abandon, release, surrender, dependence, vitality… a whole crazy mix of powerful emotions. I walked away from the crew feeling both embarrassed and proud (embarrassed for my loud yips of fear/delight and for my poor landing, but proud that I did it!), curious and satisfied (curious about how I might do if I had the chance to practice more bounces, but satisfied that I did it once and don’t really need to do it again), and very happy that I got to do this with my sweetie watching (and recording). Though I had to wait quite a while to have this experience, in the end it was absolutely worth it.
One, two, up she goes!