jayellebee's Blog

April 6, 2010

Scoreless Love

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 8:08 pm

     Tennis has been an ongoing sub-plot of my life.  If I were to write an autobiographical piece – which, of course, I never would – the tennis undercurrent would ebb and flow with the story line.  The problem with an undercurrent is it can develop into a rip-tide without warning.

     I signed up for my first tennis lessons through an after-school rec program when I was in third grade.  One haggard teacher herded thirty kids into fidgety lines on the tennis court at our neighborhood park.  She spaced us far apart in the hope of preventing me from clobbering my neighbor’s head with a hand-me-down, cat-gut strung racket, and vice-versa.  The lone adult demonstrated forehand and backhand grips, proper bent knee stance with weight balanced on the toes, and the all important follow-through.  We children took turns swinging and missing the white balls she tossed our way.  My participation in this class came to an abrupt halt the day my wiggling, squirming, and leg-crossing failed to prevent a puddle on the tennis court.  Exit stage left, red faced.  Fifteen – Love.

     Three years later, having learned to heed my mother’s directive to “go before I left home,” I signed up for lessons at a different park.  This time, each student was required to bring a fresh can of balls personalized for easy identification.  Mom and I had the brilliant idea to dye my three fuzzy contributions bright pink.  How much easier could it get to locate my balls before heading home from a successful day on the courts?  Little did we know that (1) the balls needed a very long time to dry, and (2) once wet, tennis balls lose most of their bounce.  The instructor found no humor in the  pink polka dots my tennis balls left the first day of class, and fellow students refused to play with my near-dead pinkies .   Thirty – Love.

     I went out for the cheer leading squad my senior year of high school.  Having failed to make the cut as a junior, I figured what had been lacking was the perfect outfit to put my winning routine over the top.  And what could be better than a tennis dress with matching panties to show off those high kicks and painful splits?  Mom went along with the gag and took me shopping.  I waited my turn the day of try-outs, the picture of athletic femininity in my short skirted new purchase.  The other girls lounged cross-legged on the floor in bermudas and ironed blouses while  I sat with an erect spine, knees bent under me, my bottom resting on the soles of my shoes.  My feet did not announce they were asleep until the moment the head judge called my name.   I clumped to center stage on wooden legs.  No sparkling white tennis dress in the world could have rescued my valiant attempt to  “Give Them An S.”   I knew the effort was a bust when the sound of splitting fabric accompanied my descent into the splits. 

     The listing for an intermediate tennis class beckoned me in college.  After all, I’d been playing the game since I was a child and I had the (mended) outfit to prove it.  My co-ed class drew a large contingent of young frat men.  Luck paired me with one particularly handsome guy.   The difficult lesson that class taught me was my tennis skills were no more well-developed than my talents as a seamstress.   Forty – Love.

     Ken and I gifted each other with matching Head rackets early in our courtship, and spent many warm summer evenings playing tennis.  My husband lacked my formal introduction to the sport, and yet always managed to run me ragged.  The onset of children in our marriage kept us from pursuing our game for a good many years.  At length, a group of friends with whom we spent an annual out-of-town weekend re-awakened our interest.  The serious players politely poofed the ball to us, made encouraging remarks, then moved on to real competition as soon as possible.  That’s when (you probably saw this coming) I suggested Ken and I take lessons through the adult rec program.  We invested in new state of the art rackets with over-sized faces.  This venture ended as abruptly as did my first taste of tennis.  I tripped over my own clumsy feet during our third class and managed to break my wrist while reaching behind me to break my fall.  Game, set, match.

     It’s taken over fifty years, but I no longer have the desire to play tennis.  Still, on rainy days Shadow and I walk around the courts at a neighborhood park looking for soggy balls abandoned by their users.  We bring home enough of those fuzzy, yellow, bounceless spheres to keep all the dogs in our family happy, all of them except my black lab.  It seems she’s more of a labrador than a retriever, and much smarter than I am when it comes to tennis.  Anyone need a “like new” racket, only used three times?


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