I began playing tennis in
Rhode Island while our sons were
toddlers. As often as we young mothers
could arrange a game at the summer pool and courts, we’d put the kids in
an expandable wooden fence and hope they’d make some new BFF’s
with the kids penned up with them, while they slung mud at each other or wailed about a bully who'd grabbed one of the toys dumped inside. Our games seldom lasted
When the kids grew old enough to use the pool under the supervision of a lifeguard, I graduated to games every day – sometimes twice a day. My friends and I used to call the players who’d never invite us to join them “the biggies.”
The next step was to join an indoor tennis club from September to May. We deposited our kids in an upstairs play room with a staff member and began to take lessons. Our friendships grew; so did the kids, who began playing tennis themselves, sometimes better than we did.
This group of ladies became my network. We enjoyed get-away's at the beach and in the mountains, while our husbands babysat. We supported each other through diseases, deaths, and kids' divorces.
One is still my best friend (see photo below). We discovered tennis wasn't the most important thing in life.
At the indoor club we tried out for a Division 3 team that competed throughout R.I. We attended drills. Although many of us had successful careers, we had to learn to control our nerves. Some had diarrhea the night before a match; some had tears afterward.
When Charley and I retired to Florida for eight months a year, I tried out for a Division 4 team that competed throughout South Palm Beach County. There were eight levels in each league, with eight to twelve teams at each level. Floridians played year-round, despite the heat. These ladies were tough and competitive.
Some with injections and
facial surgeries didn't show the wear and tear.
Under-forty opponents showed up with diamond necklaces layered over their POWER RED bra-lettes. They announced before matches they’d have to finish in two hours because they had to pick their kids up from kindergarten. They stood in a huddle to chant a middle-school cheer before the match and asked us why our club didn’t have a juice bar or hot towels.
In their hands they had protein shakes instead of water bottles and some were hung over from the weekend. If we called their ball “Out!” that hit two feet beyond our baseline, they’d respond from the other side of the net, “You’re calling it out? Really???”
If we hit an overhead in their direction, we would get a long, cold stare and “That wasn’t necessary.” Their pony tails swung from side to side as they hit the ball with what sounded like a horse giving birth. At the end of the match they avoided our eyes while they did a “drive-by,” shaking hands by bumping fists (to avoid germs, right?) or grazing our fingertips.
Afterward, we had soup and sandwiches at our clubhouse. After a match at their club the buffet consisted of roast beef, turkey, or ham at carving stations; omelette creations whipped up by a chef; tri-colored sauces cooked to order over al dente pastas; and desserts that filled a 12-foot table.
Our team moved up to Division 3.
Now I play in an over-55 league in
It’s called “55Love” to promote a feeling of camaraderie while we go out to
kill each other with lobs that bounce over the fence or spin serves that no-one
our age can reach. With braces hiding
our knees and ankles bound in support tape, we say “Nice shot” to anything we can't chase and we mean it. We’ve spent decades practicing
putting the ball where they ain’t.
We’re on-the-go grandmas
And we ain’t no fools.
We wear ‘lastics and braces,
Sun-block without traces.
Our bras must have wire,
And we’re always on fire (inside and out)!
Our few Facebook friends
Are all on our team.
Our talk is of grand kids,
Not how to get lean.
We can’t run five miles
So we get on machines,
Till laundry’s in piles
And the knees get real mean.
Our uniforms don’t match,
We choose from three colors.
Our faces…well, duller!
We eat healthy fruits
And veggies galore,
No colas or caffeine,
But no wine??? What a bore!
“It’s my shoulder!” we say.
“I didn’t sleep” from another.
“I don’t like this gear,
I’ve got bunions like mother’s!”
“Nice to meet you,” we say,
With a smile for their team.
As they shake hands and beam.
We don’t check the internet
For all the league scores.
“What team have we met?
I can’t hear anymore.”
“Out?? Are you sure?
The ball hit the line.”
There’s no yelling, no gore.
“It’s yours,” we say, “fine!”
Spectators and noise
Don’t bother at all.
Our sportsmanship trophies
Sit on a wall.
It’s not wins or losses –
We’ve learned what will glue.
It’s laughter and memories
And friends who are true!
To those past five-five
And to those even more,
Raise a glass! We're alive,
There’s more LOVE in store!