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April 30, 2010

A Coincidental Village

Curves A few weeks ago, I made one of my quasi-regular visits to Curves to work out. I was greeted at the door by one of the owners who told me that the club was closing at the end of the month.

Initially, I was relieved because I hadn’t been going regularly to truly justify paying the monthly fee, but I’ve always been very comfortable knowing it was there for me, just in case I needed it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I did need it, and I’m not just talking about the aspect of getting a workout on the different machines and moving from one to another in 30-second intervals until I’d finished several circuits around the room.

No, that wasn’t it at all. Curves has a slogan, "Discover a gym where women change their lives - 30 minutes at a time," and this was keenly true of this particular one but not so much as the advertising slogan intended. This Curves was a special place, a place where many women who would not have ordinarily met one another came together and ended up forming a special community.

There was a lot of laughter, sharing, and bonding; if you ever had a question—who had a good window washer? Where was the best sushi around? Now that the shoe repair shop closed, where can I go instead? Hey, I have extra baseball tickets to the Stanford game—anyone want them? Can someone come over and feed my cats while I’m away?—there was always an answer and most often, helping hands. Often, there was a bag of lemons (or oranges or zucchini or apples) or an extra loaf of pumpkin bread sliced up, brought in to share.

I joined this Curves club when it first opened, as a group with several moms who also had kids in the same elementary school as mine. So, I arrived with a built-in group of friends. But over time, our schedules changed, our kids went on to middle school, we wanted a different place to work out, or whatever the reason, our initial group drifted apart.  But in the meantime, what could have been gaps were comfortably filled by new faces and people, new interests and activities, new lives and stories.

These were women who arranged dinners for someone who was recovering from a hospital stay, planned lunches and parties to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, decorated for the holidays, encouraged each other over small or big triumphs, brainstormed when jobs or marriages went bad, cheered weight and inches lost, attended funerals and held hands when those times came too. Held together by a sense of village, recipe books were compiled as everyone brought in their favorite, craft fairs were held before the holidays, and while a lot of us didn’t necessarily lose a lot of inches on their hips but the richness of our experience couldn’t be measured that way.

In the past few months, I had spent time training for a half-marathon, and I spent less time at Curves because of my walking routine. Still, I checked in occasionally for conversation (er, cross training), and made sure I showed up there when I got home, bearing my shiny medal of honor, glowing in the accolades.

During the last week, the owner has been pulling out furnishings, decorations, and fixtures, putting prices on things that have been part of the Curves club for years. Piece by piece, the club began to disappear; some of those pieces came home with me—a picture of a deserted ocean beach that I always liked, a computer desk and a filing stand for my home office that will be revamped to accommodate these new treasures. Plans have already been made for lunches, other get-togethers, so these friendships will endure through the changes after the club’s doors close for the last time.

This is an original 50-Something Moms Blog post.