January. The third Thursday.
Amidst the collective high-pitched squeal of delight from six kindergarten-aged children, Annie Hutchinson, her face brightened with a tired smile of satisfaction, carried a multi-colored nylon bundle into the middle of the large open space at Riverview Gymnastics.
Her smile broadened as she dropped the bundle onto the floor. “Everyone remember what to do?” Before she completed her question, the children had descended on the bundle like kittens converging on a bowl of milk. They pulled at the bundle, each child searching for a rope handle, and when Annie saw that her Tumbling Tots class had properly spaced themselves, she stepped back from the circle, her brown pony-tail whipping behind her head, as she commanded the class to pull!
The six children stepped back quickly, everyone holding onto a rope handle. One child stumbled over her feet, but with a grace and speed that surprised Annie regained her footing and a second later had caught up with the rest of the group.
The nylon parachute was now stretched out completely into a circle, triangles of rainbow colors pointing into the mesh center. Annie walked over to a vacant rope handle, then grabbed it as she fell to her knees.
“Ready!” Her face beamed with an enthusiasm that spread like the scent of cinnamon escaping from an oven in which an apple pie was baking The children were bouncing on the balls of their tiny feet. “One — two — THREE!”
Annie’s arms lifted the parachute above her head, as her pony-tail dangled down her back. She walked on her knees into the circle as the children lifted and all but jumped in, the parachute lifting high in the air.