As a pre-teen, Mary tried to play tennis, and several other sports, but they were all miserable and almost embarrassing failures. We laughed and had fun on the court but she was a beautiful, smart, spaz who refused to even try.
Mary was the kid who hit the ball over the fence and into the parking lot over and over again. I considered buying a Golden Retriever so I could stop chasing balls. Or she made up excuses to stop playing, cramps in her legs, broken shoe laces, invisible ant bites. The truth was, Mary hated trying anything involving physical activity. She didn’t want to run, jump, swing or smack. (She liked swimming and could have been on the swim team but she was never willing to learn to dive. When she tried to dive she looked like a cartoon character and there was always that painful smacking sound as her face and belly hit the water.) Her lack of physical dexterity was not that big a deal and after a while I got over my need for a “jock daughter”.
Since those days Mary has transformed herself. In high school she was convinced boys didn’t want smart girls, she was too tall, too big, and tried to make herself disappear.
Then she got to college and discovered the truth, she’s stunning and men love her. She saw in herself what we’d seen all along and started dressing and acting like a magnificent creature rather than a excessively dowdy and frumpy used book seller. This semester she’s even taking ballet along with all her pre-med classes.
Yesterday, on the tennis court, the transformed Mary showed up. She was wearing Mary’s clothes, skinny jeans, knee high leather boots and an upscale pink hoodie. But when I hit the tennis ball to her she hit it back. What the hell? Then she did it again and again, as though it wasn’t a big deal at all.
“Where’s Mary?” I asked. And she just laughed.
After a few minutes I walked to the net, “Seriously, when did you learn to almost play tennis”. I was genuinely mystified.
She just shrugged and smiled, her lip gloss sparkled in the sunlight. “”I quite caring what people thought and I stopped worrying about looking stupid. I can do all kinds of things I didn’t think I could”.
And that’s my Mary.