When I was 10 we moved to Florida. My father, newly retired, was in charge of carpooling – and when Dad was at the wheel you knew we were going to stop at Dairy Queen for swirrly ice cream cones dipped in chocolate.
But better than even chocolate dipped cones was the fact that after dropping the other kids off, our station wagon headed to the nearest tennis court.
That’s where I imagined myself Chris Evert – rocking her two-handed backhand and her calm demeanor.
It’s a good thing there isn’t video evidence of my burgeoning tennis game. For in reality — I cried when I lost, broke more than a few rackets in frustration, and did NOT rock a Chris Evert anything!
But oh how I loved this game.
First it drew the attention of my reserved mother. Then it allowed me to have a best friend in my dad.
For reasons unknown, my parents had settled in a senior community – seemingly forgetful that they still had a 4th grader at home. So I had no friends within an hour drive. In lieu of weekend playdates, I partnered with my dad in the local round robin. Our rivals were mostly in their 70s, slicing craftily on the clay, but we fought hard and eventually amassed a collection of silver ashtray trophies.
One summer Dad built a backboard against our garage door and painted lines on the driveway. I spent hours as Billy Jean playing Rosie Casals. Then I became Chrissy putting Billy Jean in her place. These were tight matches but somehow I managed to win them all and then (humbly) accept trophies and accolades.
Those real and imagined victories coupled with a non-judgemental backboard propelled me to play tennis for my high school and then a D3 college.
Small stages for sure.
But more than that, tennis led me to the love of my life.
Brett and I met on the court – he a talented (handsome) pro, and me his adoring fan base. Our first dates were playing mixed doubles, caring little whether we won or lost, just exchanging smitten looks side by side in a setting that we both revered.
As I look back, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that tennis “saved” me. It granted an introverted girl, who was a mediocre student void of talent in the arts – access to distant parents, enduring friendships, and finally a lifetime love.
And now I hold memories of driveway matches with my own 2 kids as well as family trips to watch them play at their respective schools, they too – taken in by this game that is more than a game.
And I am STILL working on my backhand.
And looking for a backboard where I can take on Serena!
Surely God was thinking of tennis when he referenced the “perfect gift”.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
Some flashbacks from the 70s. Who knew I was a brunette?