A Pickle, a Ball and Me

Photo Pickleball

Though diminutive in size, this one inch pickle pin is the pride and joy of our neighborhood’s Pickleball community.

“I’m bored, there’s nothing to do.” That whiny lament has been heard by parents everywhere, but back in the summer of 1985, little did three dads know that inventing a game in order to entertain their bored children would create a world phenomenon known as Pickleball.

A cross between badminton, table tennis and tennis, this is how Pickleball originated. The smaller court meant less running and helped to make the game so popular. With 37 countries now members of the International Pickleball Federation, it is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. with over 2 million players.

Was the game named after one of the family dogs? Did one of the wives liken the combination of different sports to the pickle boat in crew where oarsman are chosen from leftovers of other boats? Though accounts of how the name originated differ, it is agreed no actual pickles are involved in the playing of the game.

It’s safe to say there will be no golden pickles in my future. According to the official Pickleball dictionary, this is when you win a game on your first serve, never giving the opposing team the chance to serve.

Unfortunately, my clumsiness prevents me from participating. I don’t say that to hear I should just give it a try or with practice, I could become a good player. I know my limitations and awkwardness is just something that has always accompanied me through life.

Years ago when I first met my new boss, who happened to be Mr. Wiz,* I tripped over my own feet as we strolled down New York City’s Fifth Avenue. As I lay there on my stomach in my new suit and matching heels, a crowd formed around us as he helped me up. I tried to brush it off as I brushed myself off, quickly cleaning the blood off my knees with my saliva and trying to turn the rips in my hose off to one side.

The next day, the rain did not deter us and I was feeling great in my new matching raincoat and hat. I was impressed Mr. Wiz wanted to stop in at one of those ritzy Madison Avenue jewelry stores where ringing the bell lets you in and I felt so elegant as we entered. Then, when I looked down, the water that had gathered on the brim of my hat hit the jewelry case and all the security alarms in the store started to screech. As we were quickly escorted back out to the street by the security guards, all I could think to say was “Lunch?”

Preparing to regally walk down the staircase from my bedroom for a first date and then falling, tripping in my garden and on to all the plants; these are just reminders I’m right when I say I have two left feet.

Luckily, it’s all worked out for me. I focus on what I can do, rather than what I can’t and when I ever do misstep, I know Mr. Wiz is always there with a loving smile and a strong arm to lift me up and remind me it’s not about the trip, but about the journey.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:
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Thank Those Lemons, Then Make Limoncello    

Photo Lemons Limoncllo

I spent most of my 13th year of life in our family bathroom, crying. Back then, things just never seemed to work out as I had planned. Boyfriend angst, girlfriend drama, body issues, academic concerns, shyness, lack of confidence; I had no idea how to deal with my struggles.

JC* and my Dad took turns talking to me out of earshot of my three young siblings, for my sake and probably for the sake of the family, since that house only had one bathroom. JC would regale me with stories of her childhood and how she and her independent streak would band together and seem to overcome any obstacles. My Dad would remind me how the army had built him back up, giving him the determination to set goals that might have seemed out of reach to others and one by one, accomplish them.

Hoping I had inherited the best of my parents’ personalities, it was in my 16th year that I ventured entirely out of my comfort zone and entered a modeling contest at the local upscale teen fashion shop. Excited to be able to choose my wardrobe, it turned out that my first and second choices were not in my size. When the knowledgeable saleslady steered me over to my correct size, which was a bit larger, I thought it must be a mistake; it wasn’t.

I didn’t win, but I remember the owner telling me I had a nice smile. So, the next day when I went shopping for boots and the salesman told JC that I had large calves (I was sitting right there), I realized I had a big decision to make; I could see myself with large calves or a nice smile and I chose the latter. As it turned out, the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree. I had succeeded in taking my first step toward Lemonade 101.

A love lost that steered me toward my true partner. A career change that sparked my creativity. A move that landed me where I belonged. Tears that made me appreciate every smile. Maladies that helped me to celebrate life. When I think back to the disappointments that have engulfed me over the years, I can reflect and see clearly how the increasingly positive attitude I was developing, encouraged me to squeeze all I could out of a situation and then mix it with what new possibilities lie ahead.

As I mature, I like to think that in the big lemonade stand of life, I have graduated to Limoncello and created a more sophisticated version of myself, drinking in experiences, with pinky up, sipping at an outdoor café and confident in the knowledge that the end is usually just a new beginning.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:
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When Things Don’t Go Swimmingly, Dive In

Photo Swimmingly

Miss Londa had her hands full. A swimming teacher for 15 years, she had seen her share of budding swim team champions and those that, try as they might, just sunk to the bottom of the pool.

Back then, Big A* was an enthusiastic 4-year old student, ready to master each week’s lesson. He’d giggle when I’d call him “Fish Boy” and took to the water immediately. Never having learned to swim, I decided it was a good time for me to join in. It was when Miss Londa asked that I swim across the pool so she could ascertain my ability level that she wondered to herself if it was too late to use her journalism degree to change careers.

Jumping right in and splashing about, I enthusiastically did a version of the dog paddle and dead man’s float that I had personally customized over the years, which left both Miss Londa and Big A stunned. Each week, Big A would progress to the next level and I would be trailing behind, sometimes taking tips from the pre-school age star of the class. With some extra lessons and much practice, I finally graduated.

Years later, I ran into Miss Londa on the street. After joking that we had recognized each other with clothes on, we chuckled about those classes so long ago. She mentioned that, even though I was the worst student ability-wise, she ever had, my enthusiasm and determination had turned me into a swimmer, bolstered her and made her a better teacher. She said goodbye, but not before giving me a hug and thanking me.

When I look back, I don’t remember thinking that this was something I wasn’t good at. Rather, I saw myself swimming laps alongside Big A and enjoying a new form of exercise. Apparently, my mind saw me perfecting underwater somersaults while my body lagged behind trying to keep up. It’s sink or swim out there; apparently positive thinking jumped in and aquatically speaking, compelled itself to commence swimming drills with or without the participation of my body.

Today, each time I wriggle into my Speedo bathing suit, plug up my ears, stretch the bathing cap over my head and put my nose plug on just right, I feel like both like a stuffed sausage and an Olympic swimmer (truth be told, though I’ve moved on from considering a career as a synchronized swimmer, I haven’t discounted the Senior Olympics as yet).

Water, life: rather than feeling apprehensive and settling for just dipping your toe in, why not take the plunge, dive right in and propel yourself?

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.