juggling-ballsLooking back as an adult, I can be perfectly honest and say that the main reason I joined the juggling club when I was in middle school was because of a boy. When I was in middle school I did lots of things for a boy (most of them didn’t work out). Joining the juggling club, however, did provide some other benefits, even if nothing ever came from my initial plan.

Although I joined the juggling club for a boy‚ for whom the club was started, since he was a fantastic juggler‚ I actually had no idea how to juggle. Luckily, that was only a minor issue, since I knew how to play the piano, and was I able to convince the club mentor that the performances would be better if set to live music. You couldn’t argue that I hadn’t thought out my plan, even if it was doomed to fail.

Eventually the club became big enough and was sought after enough‚ as much as anyone seeks out a bunch of middle school aged jugglers‚ that we went from being an after-school club to a full elective class during the school day. And because there are always organizations that seek free entertainment, one of the bonuses of being in the club was that occasionally I got to miss class for performances (this might have been why other teachers didn’t like the juggling club much; it didn’t help that I was also in the band and missed class for that as well). Even for a goody-two-shoes like me, missing school, especially for a “legitimate” purpose, was always fun.

As juggling switched from an after-school club to a class, I was forced to learn how to juggle. I still provided music for the performances, but it was determined that since I knew all the music already, my enrollment in the class necessitated actual participation and acquisition of new skills. Ironically, for someone who had such nimble fingers (besides the piano, I also played violin and bassoon), I had‚ and still have‚ a distinct lack of coordination in the major muscle groups. And though most people learn to juggle scarves first, I proved to be even more inept at those than bags or balls. Eventually, after a few months‚ most kids took a few weeks‚ I was able to pass my “bag test.” Perhaps a bit arbitrary, but in an effort to set goals for the kids, as well as to prove a level of proficiency for performance purposes, if you could do 10 rotations without dropping a item, you were considered to have “passed” that particular object. Thankfully, there was no mark-down of your grade if you failed one of these tests, or weren’t even capable of taking them. I say thankfully, because the levels were scarves, bags, balls (balls roll away if you drop them, bags don’t), rings, pins, and then advanced pins. Advanced pins meant that you could juggle them indefinitely (it was a bit vague, to be honest). Once it was determined you probably wouldn’t hurt yourself, from advanced pins you could do flaming pins‚ which you had to be able to juggle indefinitely unlit before lighting them‚ and then, provided you could find a set, knives.

Thankfully, juggling knives isn’t as dangerous as it sounds; we always chopped a carrot on stage with one to show how “sharp” they were, but the only reason the carrots ever ended up in two was because the knives were heavy enough to break them, not cut them. Still, I can’t imagine that today’s health and safety laws would have allowed us to have them in the school. The early nineties were a bit more lax, however. Also, permission slips were involved (I think most of them were forged).

By the end of the second year, when I was going to move on to high school, I was able to juggle clubs. And eventually, I did even impress a boy with my skill. We were in our twenties, and have since married. I’m still trying to teach him how to juggle.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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