Cartwheels, backbends, headstands, and piggyback rides were as much a part of my growing up as playing Barbie and fighting with my sibs. My personal favorite was cartwheels, but over time they went the way of Barbie—shelved and eventually forgotten. The Bicentennial, puberty, and college graduation passed between my last spins and their reemergence.
In June 1996, my sister Ann and Phil, her partner of twenty years, visited my husband, son, and me in Iowa. Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, Phil was technically on borrowed time. One day, we planned to plant a magnolia tree (Phil’s favorite) and enjoy a bonfire at night, but Phil retired early. Ann and I remained outside, trying to imagine her life without him. In eventual need of diversion, we began twirling and somersaulting and then cartwheeling. Wobbly at first, we ended the night on solid ground. Still, sea changes in our lives had begun.