Just as running has a special place in my heart and a lengthy history in my life, tennis and I go even farther back. I went for my first real “run” when I was about 8, but I started taking tennis lessons at the age of 5. It was love at first hit, you could say. My youth was full of hours at our local indoor tennis club in Connecticut. I could write volumes about the time I spent there, about the friendships, the competition, the personal goals, the effort, the sheer enjoyment.
Life takes turns, and even when those turns result in dreams coming true and absolute bliss, sometimes other facets of existence have to make turns as well. As I’ve become a mommy, my relationship with tennis consists of occasional visits. These visits also aren’t about my tennis game anymore, either. Nowadays, I toss balls to our son, instructing and encouraging him, as he stands at the service line, ready to hit another forehand. Or, I sit at the back of the court, huddled in some tiny bit of shade with our daughter, drinking water and eating Goldfish, while my husband tosses balls to our son. I’ll watch tennis matches on TV, hear that enchanting “thwack” of the ball on the racquet, and long to play again. I hope that as our daughter starts going to school in the next few years, I will be able to satisfy that desire to play more often.
Yesterday, my husband and I had the opportunity to go out somewhere for our “victory time”, since my parents were spending the night. We tossed around ideas of a late dinner or fun dessert once the kids were asleep, which is what we usually do on a date night. We half jokingly said we could even just go to the neighborhood gym and work out together, like we used to every day before becoming parents. Then, my husband, brilliant man that he is, said, “I know! Let’s play tennis!” Did I mention he is brilliant?
I was giddy all afternoon and evening with the thought of having our tennis date. From a practical standpoint, this meant I didn’t have to clean up from being on the playground after school with the kids, and I could put on super-comfortable clothes for being active, even though I do enjoy getting dressed up to go out from time to time. From an emotional standpoint, this meant I was getting to (a) be alone with the man I love, (b) partake in an activity that I love, and (c) burn off some steam from the week. Perfect!
The hour we spent hitting was wonderful. I hit some shots that made me think that maybe I’ve still “got it”, that if I practiced consistently, I could get back into good form fairly easily. I didn’t feel totally out of shape, which was also reassuring, considering my somewhat sporadic exercise habits. I wasn’t as fast as I’d ever been, but I scurried my way around the court that gave me some sense of triumph over the years, pregnancies, and physical changes. There was such a feeling of exhilaration when I really connected with the ball and hit an untouchable shot. This isn’t to say I was trying to show off, or crush my husband. We didn’t even keep score. But creaming a ball across the court is a hard feeling to beat. Also, it was just us. The kids were happily sleeping, and we were free to simply enjoy this time together. Finding common interests, and continuing to invest in those things, means we are investing in our marriage. Sharing our victory time is something that helps keep our love fresh and growing. Being active together is rejuvenating; it means we both care about our own and each other’s health and strength. It was so much more than just an hour of tennis.
Of course, there were a few small obstacles, but thankfully they were easily overcome. First, our neighborhood courts now have a combination lock on the gate. We know the code, but it took a few frustrating tries, and the light of my iPhone, to get in. Living in south Florida, and also being adjacent to a nature preserve, we know local wildlife is never far away. Two creatures who are very low on my animal love list tried to interrupt our fantastic hour. The first was the largest flying cockroach I’ve ever seen. Had I seen this creature inside my house, I’m not sure I would have slept for a few days, and I would probably have jumped three feet in the air if anything moved at all. Seeing it outside was somehow easier to handle, but I definitely felt like it was taunting me, as it sat about seven feet behind the center of the baseline the whole rest of our time there. I wasn’t about to let this critter steal my enjoyment. As long as I knew where it was, I could play around it. Besides, I had a racquet. The second creature never showed its face, but its presence was a bit disarming: halfway through our hour, our neighborhood security guard started walking between the clubhouse/pool area and the tennis courts. The way he was walking slowly and shining a flashlight, I guessed he was looking for some lost object. Then, he came up to the fence by our court, and said, “Ma’am, I just wanted to let you know, if you need to use the gate over by the pool, there’s a snake over there.” I dislike cockroaches, but I truly abhor snakes. We’ve had some sightings of poisonous snakes in our neighborhood lately, so I asked him what kind it was, although I know it didn’t really matter to me–if that snake showed up near the courts, I’d be out of there! He said he didn’t know the type, but that he had contacted animal control workers. We played on, and as far as I know, the snake kept its distance.
Nothing is without its own adventure, it seems, but I’m so thankful we prevailed. I am even more thankful to my husband for having this great idea, and to my parents for willingly staying behind to listen for the kids, especially because they love tennis, too. I don’t want to get greedy, but I definitely hope we get to do that again soon. Getting dressed up for special events or going out for a nice dinner are still favorites for date nights, but playing tennis was certainly an extra-special “victory”.