My obsession did not wane. I continued to tumble, balance and wear pigtails for years. When my campaign to be renamed Nadia failed, I named my stuffed rabbit and my favorite doll Nadia. In the absence of gymnastics classes, I taught myself how to do cartwheels and handstands. I never fell off the thin strip of cabinet in front of the kitchen sink that doubled as my balance beam (except when my brother grabbed my ankle and pulled me down). I was on my way to becoming a homemade, world accomplished writer-gymnast.
So you can imagine my joy in third grade then, when during winter gym class, we had a gymnasium full of real equipment. For the first time, I was in the same room with a balance beam and uneven bars. UNEVEN BARS! I could never improvise those at home. I was in heaven. All winter we practiced our 'routines' and were going to be graded just before Spring Break. I couldn't sit still for weeks, dreaming of my victorious
The day finally came. I wasn't allowed to wear a leotard like all the other girls, but for the first time, I. Did. Not. Care. Nothing could ruin my joy and excitement. I was finally going to be the little Midwestern Nadia. I was going to be discovered and train for the Olympics, where they would make an exception for my attire not being the same as the rest of the team's.
It was my turn. I got on the uneven bars, and started my routine with great pomp and enthusiasm. I don't know what I actually looked like, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't a threat to Nadia Comaneci's record. When I dismounted, I raised my arms, stuck out my chest and dazzled them with a huge smile. Time stopped as I waited for the applause.
Everyone laughed. Coach Z and Mrs. B tried to stifle their laughter, with no success. Finally, Mrs. B composed herself and said, "Thank you for a very interesting performance. Please sit down."
As I walked to the opposite wall of the gymnasium. I felt like my brains would boil and my head would explode. I didn't know what had happened, I just knew I was being mocked by the entire third grade. I had done everything, just as Nadia had and I was mocked. She caused me to be mocked. AGAIN.
And that's how Nadia Comaneci's record was saved and my life as a world famous gymnast came to an end.