My parents were big on getting outside to move. As a family, the moment the last fork hit the plate after a meal, we were out the door to walk.
Bikes went everywhere on the back of the car. And, one wonderful summer, without the car on Nantucket, where if we couldn’t get where we needed to be on two wheels (mine was a pink Sting Ray with banana seat!) we didn’t go.
But, our greatest pleasure came on the local middle school courts on languid, warm evenings playing endless rounds of tennis where we swung as much at the clouds of descending mosquitoes as the fluorescent yellow balls whizzing past.
Wielding my cool new (wooden) Slazenger Clipper like I meant it, I rarely connected with anything other than air, and then laughed uproariously at the miss, irritating my mother.
I remember my father, after a particularly arduous match, smiling in satisfaction and announcing to no one in particular, “I just love this game.”
I do, too. Tennis is my passion, worshipping greats like Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer. My own playing, though, was more of a social thing, and a way to burn calories.
My husband and I have hit tennis balls together for exercise since we met. But when he said he wanted to start playing mixed doubles competitively, I was stunned, and terrified. He is a great tennis player. You mean, you want to team up with … me?
We joined our town league the summer before last, and lost every match. I was mortified, so nervous on the court I could barely function. Every return went into the net. Or up like a pop fly.
I was ready to quit. But he sat me down and like a good coach talked up my strengths, the competitive spirit we share, and how fun it would be to kick some ass.
So, we trained outside all last winter, in hats and gloves, as many days a week as we could. And then gave it everything we had this summer.
Tonight, we’re heading to a league dinner in the next town to celebrate our second-place finish in our division. Victory is sweet! But along with the win, I think I’ll be celebrating those precious times so long ago, sprinting all over the court as a family.
In my memory, I’ll be sharing the trophy with them.