Three Balls

I was probably seven years old, sitting around playing with my worn-down Hot Wheels cars in the middle of our bedroom. I shared this bedroom with my two older sisters. I slept on the top of a bunk-bed, my older sister underneath, and my oldest sister across the room in a bed to herself. There was an old radiator heater in between the beds that would often act as a goalie net for my teddy bear soccer matches. My mother and I would wrestle in this open space. But I digress.

On this particular day, my oldest sister walks in the room, excited and filled with anticipation to let me in on her recently acquired talent. She whips out a can of tennis balls. Growing up, we’d often play tennis with our mom at the nearby playground, so naturally I assumed I was in for a tennis lesson. Instead, she starts juggling.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’d never seen juggling before, nor had I known of its existence. I sat there in awe, turning my back to the traffic jam of toy ice cream trucks and drag cars. Who knew that tennis balls could create such a marvelous display of art? I remember thinking how difficult it must be.

After a few minutes, my sister stops juggling. She looks at me and says “Bet you can’t do this. Try it!”

“Me? Are you crazy? Go back to Armenia!”

I paraphrase.

She hands over the scruffy, beat up tennis balls. I stared, terrified, as if they were ghosts hiding underneath my bed (technically my older sister’s bed). I didn’t want to embarrass myself, especially after such a magnificent debut performance. But when life hands you tennis balls, you juggle them.

And that’s exactly what I did. I threw the first ball in the air, then the second, followed by the third; and I kept right on juggling. A beautiful array of raggedy tennis balls cascaded in the air as if I was its inventor. My sister unearthed a talent of mine that I never knew existed.

Growing up, my father was artistically and musically gifted. He painted pictures of Mount Ararat, the breathtaking mountain that overlooks Armenia and is located near the borders of Armenia, Turkey, and Iran. He’d often donate these paintings to churches and families. He played acoustic guitar simultaneously with the harmonica. Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack was his favorite tune. My father was an artist; a musician. I can juggle.

This is merely a self-deprecating jab rather than a “woe is me” therapy session. The fact is, I instinctively knew how to juggle. I thought I was so cool. I’d juggle any chance I had: the produce section, the tennis court, during recess, hiding in the back row during social studies. It was a childhood escape that essentially lasted until I discovered sports.

In eighth grade, my teacher demanded that I enter the annual student talent show. I remember having no desire because all of the other kids were singers and dancers. In my eyes, they were talented performers and I was just a clown. But she insisted and eventually signed me up. I started to practice and picked up some new tricks along the way.

We were given the lineup on the day of the show. As expected, I was the only participant who was neither singing or dancing. But I was dead last. Immediately I questioned my decision to participate. Nobody cares about a juggler, I thought. That’s why they placed me last, so everyone can leave early when the real acts were finished. I sat behind stage, watching the other acts and hearing rounds of applause, thinking to myself that I was doomed.

I didn’t back out because I thought I’d get suspended or receive a pink slip. I also didn’t want to disappoint my teacher, who was sitting in the front row. I placed my thoughts aside as they mispronounced my name onto stage. I walked out slowly, sweating profusely to the point where my tennis balls were soaking in perspiration. I looked at the dead-silenced audience, paused, took a deep breath, and juggled my little Armenian self away.

Roars of applause came as I performed trick after trick. I was the top act! I even took a damn bow at the end. It was the first time in my life that I engaged a large audience. And I loved it.

Now, what the hell does this have anything to do with a 48-state road trip? Simple. I’m going to juggle across country.

I’d simply like to carve a niche in this travel/fitness/lifestyle blog of mine. Juggling is something I’ve always enjoyed doing. It’s not the most popular shenanigan, and certainly not the most complicated. But it’s an uncommon gimmick that’s entertaining to showcase and observe. And in this case of a cross-country traveling, CrossFitting Armenian, it adds a twist that will hopefully come across as unparalleled. I’d like to juggle among various backdrops; mountains, lakes, deserts, skylines, architecture, State Capitol buildings, and so on. Why? JUST BECAUSE.

Disclaimer: I’m far from a professional juggler. I’m simply an amateur with a handful of tricks. On occasion, I’ll learn new, more advanced tricks, hoping to perform them along the way. Maybe I’ll even incorporate local objects into my acts, such as juggling potatoes in Idaho. We’ll see what the future holds for this wandering juggler. Thanks, sis.