It was the day before my first lesson and I tried on the shoes I’d bought for the occasion. Have you noticed how joggers present our feet to the world with a new shape? My old New Balance’s accentuate width. In contrast, these new Volleys make my feet look longer, leaner. There is a sensation, maybe an inch up from the sole, encircling each foot, where the solid plastic gives in to the flexible canvas. This sensation instantly transports my senses, my memory, back many many years. I feel 20 again.
Mum would give me her hand-me-down tennis shoes. She played tennis regularly. When the shoes wore out in a certain spot, she would give them up in favour of a new pair. Some of these became my street shoes. I’d wear them until they had multiple holes in the canvas. I didn’t play tennis then.
I gave up tennis in my youth. It was a traditional family game because it was one of the few occasions for socialising in a rural community. Every little village had a tennis court or two. Some farms even had their own. We all learnt to hold a racquet quite young. Unfortunately, I didn’t take to competition. One day, I was quite excited to get an encouragement prize, until I realised that it was the prize given to those who came last. I’ve no potential where sports are concerned. I preferred to dance.
Today was my first tennis lesson as an adult. With only two in the class, there was a lot more running and swinging and missing than expected.
Today, I entered the sporting fraternity that is my family. There is a beautiful patch of skin missing from my knee. No more sitting on the sidelines while the bumps and scrapes and bruises of others are paraded as trophies. I’ve got my own now.
Where does tennis fit with the Sweat Cards?
The plan is to complete the 10 weeks of lessons and then assess progress by asking “Would I fit in at a social tennis club?”. Given the family history, you might think we are in the Hearts suit of the Sweat Cards. Alas, as central as tennis was to my childhood, it couldn’t compete with the Saturday and Sunday dance classes. For my Sweat Cards, I think tennis belongs to the Clubs suit. There it has a stronger chance of encouraging me to join in.