There’s a phenomenon that occurs during my Friday tennis clinic that I’m fairly certain will lose something in the translation, but I’m going to try anyway.
Laura the Tennis Pro says our Friday Group has a lot of "comfort issues," and I guess that’s true. We certainly have issues. Nobody wears any color. We all show up in black. Shelley always has to serve first. Ann can’t process too much information at one time. I curse too much.
Chief among our issues is obsessive tidiness.
Shelley leads the pack with her insatiable need to pick up tennis balls. She runs around scooping them up and tucking them into her pockets like a squirrel harvesting nuts. She’s always kicking the balls from the net to the back of the court, or herding the balls at the back of the court into a neat little group. She’s far from prissy, but she requires a clean court.
Once Shelley starts in, everyone else follows along. No one wants to appear sloppy or inconsiderate.
One day Shelley and I were playing against Ann and Eileen and, as usual, Eileen was at the baseline returning every ball that we hit to her, no matter how much of the court she had to run across. Ann wasn’t able to get anything at the net and Eileen was probably back and forth eight times before we finally won the point. Eileen had her hands on her knees and was catching her breath when she blurted out to Ann, “I’m doing all the work back here! It’s like being with my husband!”
It was a funny joke at Ann’s expense, and we all laughed hard, including Ann.
Soon after, it was time to pick up the balls.
Ann had to leave early that day. She had a conference call scheduled at 10:30 and had to be in her car by then. So she started gathering up her things, putting on her coat.
Eileen had the basket half-filled with balls when she yelled across the court to Ann in her most lilting wifely voice, “Don’t worry, Honey. You sit and watch the game. I’ll finish cleaning up.”
I know it sounds like husband-bashing, and maybe on the surface, it a little bit was. But in a deeper place, there’s a truth about that statement that’s so lovely and pure. That no matter how hard we are ripping the ball at each other, or how mercilessly we’re making each other run, at the end of the day, we are really here to take care of each other.
Which is why, issues notwithstanding, not a one of us can ever bear missing tennis on Friday. Me most of all.