For most of us, the four seasons are Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall. For my mom they are the Australian, the French, Wimbledon and the US Open. Watching tennis is her passion– and when hunky Nadal or the ever-focused Federer are on the court, it’s easy to see why.  Mom’s calendar is set by the majors; and when ESPN offers coverage, she’s tuned in. Just 20 feet from the TV, her antique aluminum Wilson T-2000 sits in the coat closet, but it hasn’t seen action in 35 years. It’s a relic of days gone by, the days of Chrissie and Billie Jean, long before Venus and Serena were even born, back when polyester halter-top tennis dresses and matching Tretorns were all the rage.

Playing tennis is an inheritance from both my parents, one of the things they gave me jointly, before their divorce. I learned to play by watching them play, then hitting balls with them as they wound down after a match.  My  older sister and I competed on the junior circuit, traveling to tournaments in small towns across North Carolina. I rarely won trophies, or progressed much past the 3rd round, but I loved the game nonetheless. I still do. And though she hasn’t hit a ball in a quarter of a century, my mom is a tennis junkie, and Wimbledon–with its strawberries and cream and John McEnroe’s annoying repetition of the word “fortnight”–is her fix.

As Rafael and Roger grunt and ace their way through the brackets, mom and I will chat about the day’s matches. She’ll add commentary on the Williams’ sisters wardrobe, and update me on who’s who in the impossible-to-pronounce women’s line up. Then we’ll sit and watch the ball go back and forth; we’ll observe athletes moving with unfathomable power and precision, and think back to the days when, we, too, knew the muscular satisfaction of  placing a ball deep in the cross court corner, of passing our opponent with a down-the-line service return. The days when our bodies responded to our brain’s commands, and balls danced off our rackets and across the net like sweet yellow promises.

Stephanie (aka Steffie)

~ by Stephanie on 06/22/2010.

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