So The Gorilla started pestering me about the tennis courts. I played tennis in high school. I wasn’t very good. Okay, I actually wasn’t terrible, but I definitely wasn’t great. I’m not very strong, so while I could return the ball, there was no power in my stroke. Some would say that all of life is about returning the ball, over and over, so if you can do that then you can do anything. But really, you won’t make it far in the tournament if there’s no strength behind the racquet. This is a life lesson.
When my husband gets something in his head, there’s really no turning back. (See: ginormous fish tank.) I was able to keep him at bay for weeks by shoving my swollen, purple ankle in his face, but his orthopedic father looked at it last weekend and declared my ankle sprain “severe” (validation!), and also in need of some light exercise.
So on Mother’s Day we got rackets and an ankle brace and on Tuesday we drove to the courts. As we turned into the parking lot, I asked The Gorilla if he was nervous. “No,” he answered. Whenever I’m feeling nervous, I ask him if he’s feeling nervous. He always replies no.
We chose an open court and started hitting the ball around. We were awful. Truly abysmal. It took many minutes before either of us could even get the ball back over the net. But the movement felt good. We kept laughing at ourselves and at each other, and The Gorilla would shout out encouraging words diffusing even an ounce of frustration.
“Your backhand is amazing!” he said. Amazing might be stretching it, but my backhand was still good. It was from all those years of drills with my dad and my coach, over and over my backhand because that was my weak spot. How smirky I felt that after 15 years, it was the backhand drills that had endured.
I still couldn’t serve worth a hoot. But neither could The Gorilla.
Weird things kept floating through my head. Things I hadn’t thought about in years. “Follow through!” “Get back to the middle!” “Set up!” “Move to the net!” It felt like a revisit to a cobwebby house where I knew every passage.
I tried to scoop up the ball using my foot and the racket. That will take a little more practice. I remember - with horror! - that I used to keep spare balls in the back of my underpants. What in the world was that about?! But we all did it. We had little navy tennis skirts with navy bloomers, and we shoved the second ball up there to rest on our butts. In practice, when we weren’t wearing uniforms, we just used our underwear. This is completely suspect to me. I can’t believe in all those years no one pointed out how weird of a practice this is. Or even cracked a joke about putting balls in underpants.
This week I just put the spare balls in my pocket.