Tennis in the Rain

My older daughter has been taking tennis lessons on Mondays at our town’s park district courts. The past few weeks, it’s been rainy, but her class still met both days. It’s not pouring, but it’s fairly wet out, misting perhaps. The teachers have squeegees to make the court drier, but there are still puddles, and the balls get pretty soaked. Granted, these are all 6- and 7-year-olds. They play with slightly larger than normal tennis balls, and they use a set-up net to practice their burgeoning shots. Also, it’s likely the tennis school people don’t want to have to schedule makeup classes if they can avoid it.

Still, it’s not easy playing tennis in the rain. When I’ve taken lessons in the past few years, a sprinkle or even just a wet court meant a cancellation. It’s true, playing a match with waterlogged balls and slippery puddles is frustrating, if not impossible, and also dangerous (twisted ankle, anyone?).

But watching the kids out there, getting wet and yelling with delight, reminded me of a warm summer day when I was about 15, hanging out with my best friend, Lorin, at some courts close to my house. We were both on our high school tennis team. We weren’t particularly awesome — there were maybe two other schools whose teams we could rival; with the rest we were lucky to win a match or two at a meet. But we always had fun. During practice we sang Madonna’s “Borderline” but changed it to “Baseline.” We all had nicknames (Scorin’ Lorin, Racy Tracy; I was also called Lefty or the unfortunate Guther, from Guth, my last name then).

On this particular summer day, it was gray and humid. The sky was about to open up any minute. When it did we were still on the court. It was one of those soakers, where suddenly your clothes are stuck to you, your hair is slicked across your face, and your socks are full of water. We could barely see or breathe. But we were laughing hysterically, still trying to hit. It got to the point where the ball would pop off your racket with a burst of water and land kerplop on the other side of the net, with no bounce left in it at all.

So no, we couldn’t play. But I will never, ever forget that day, and how good it felt to be out there in that warm rain, laughing with my best friend.

There are a lot of things that aren’t particularly practical but at the same time don’t hurt anyone and feel fantastic. Todd always tells the story of when he was around five and his mom let him and his siblings splash around in a big Honolulu fountain. They were having a great old time when a cop shooed them out. Why? It was against the rules to play in the fountain. Well, okay.

My girls like to blow bubbles in their milk through a straw. They can get a huge pile of bubbles going on the top of their cups, and it never spills over. Then they bite into it and giggle away. It makes Todd crazy. He usually tells them to stop, stop, stop! The other night I whispered to him, “Why can’t they blow bubbles in their milk?” He said he finds it annoying. Fair enough. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, is there?

Many rules are in place for good reasons. Order must be kept. But it seems like some are just there because if people break them, it makes other people uncomfortable, and they don’t like to feel uncomfortable. These are boundaries that are good to push, to test. Kids are great at doing that. Adults should do it more. It’s good for your heart, for your soul. And if you avoid it out of fear of breaking a rule or looking silly, you could miss something really memorable.

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