Growing Up


I’m courtside, watching kids tentatively size up one another.  In his left hand, Squints has what he calls a girly racquet—likely a hand-me-down from one of his sisters.  In his right hand he carries the one tennis ball we own, dug out from the bushes.  He wears his baseball cap and his dingy grey jacket with the cuff nearly torn off.  He’s got the wrong shoes.  He’s got the wrong pants.  I notice I’ve forgotten water and sunscreen.

The coach takes one look at Squints and hands him a racquet—why don’t you try this one, buddy?  

I wish for a chair, something else I’ve forgotten.  Specifically, I wish for my husband’s rocking chair.  We just picked it up yesterday.  Maple.  Amish made.  Six weeks to complete.  It would be nice just below that oak tree. 

But I have no chair.


I open my book.

I’m reading Growing Up a biography by Russell Baker.  I learn that when he was eleven, Baker rose at midnight to deliver newspapers in Baltimore to help support his mother and sister.  Baker’s father had died when he was very young.   

I glance up.  All three courts are littered with tennis balls.  The kids run around with what are called tennis ball pickup tubes, stabbing at balls to gather them up into four-foot tubes.

My husband shows up.  He brings two vinyl fold-out chairs.  “What,” he says, crossing his legs.  “Kids can’t bend over to pick up the balls?”

We sit and watch Squints practice his serve and I finish my book.

The lesson ends.  The coach tells Squints he’s a natural and I find myself wondering whether he’s just saying that to get us to spend even more money.  He runs up and grabs his crappy tennis racquet.  “I’m thirsty, Mom.”

* * *

“Why is everyone parked here?”  My husband scowls.  The sides of the streets in our development are lined with cars.  Girls and boys stand on green lawns in strapless gowns and tuxedos.  Parents and grandparents snap pictures.  A stretch limousine van drives around the block. 

Another prom season. 

Another season of excess.

For what each of my daughters spent on dresses, transportation, jewelry, tickets, I’d wager we could have four more maple rocking chairs in the house.  But it’s their money.  It’s their lesson to learn.

I head in.  Seeing the waste, I have to get rid of something.  I walk around the house until I spy my exercise tapes.  There are seven of them, a few still wrapped in plastic.  Yoga, Pilates, exercise ball tapes…all gone.  I’ll never have sculpted arms.  I’ll never be able to wear a bikini.  I’ll never look like Ana Caban.  And that’s OK.  I pack them up and ship them to Amazon and receive in trade-in a fraction of what I originally spent. 

I think about Russell Baker delivering his newspapers at midnight.  I think of the Amish man who made my husband’s rocking chair.  I think about how Baker and the Amish would never need exercise videos and tennis lessons.  I think about Baker’s wedding reception, hosted at his mother’s house because they couldn’t afford a hall.

I think about how easily and how much we waste.  And I wonder what skills my husband and I have given our children.  What thing of value can they produce?

On the street, the limo passes by.

And I take my box of exercise videos to my car.

Labels: ,

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Growing Up

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Growing Up


I’m courtside, watching kids tentatively size up one another.  In his left hand, Squints has what he calls a girly racquet—likely a hand-me-down from one of his sisters.  In his right hand he carries the one tennis ball we own, dug out from the bushes.  He wears his baseball cap and his dingy grey jacket with the cuff nearly torn off.  He’s got the wrong shoes.  He’s got the wrong pants.  I notice I’ve forgotten water and sunscreen.

The coach takes one look at Squints and hands him a racquet—why don’t you try this one, buddy?  

I wish for a chair, something else I’ve forgotten.  Specifically, I wish for my husband’s rocking chair.  We just picked it up yesterday.  Maple.  Amish made.  Six weeks to complete.  It would be nice just below that oak tree. 

But I have no chair.


I open my book.

I’m reading Growing Up a biography by Russell Baker.  I learn that when he was eleven, Baker rose at midnight to deliver newspapers in Baltimore to help support his mother and sister.  Baker’s father had died when he was very young.   

I glance up.  All three courts are littered with tennis balls.  The kids run around with what are called tennis ball pickup tubes, stabbing at balls to gather them up into four-foot tubes.

My husband shows up.  He brings two vinyl fold-out chairs.  “What,” he says, crossing his legs.  “Kids can’t bend over to pick up the balls?”

We sit and watch Squints practice his serve and I finish my book.

The lesson ends.  The coach tells Squints he’s a natural and I find myself wondering whether he’s just saying that to get us to spend even more money.  He runs up and grabs his crappy tennis racquet.  “I’m thirsty, Mom.”

* * *

“Why is everyone parked here?”  My husband scowls.  The sides of the streets in our development are lined with cars.  Girls and boys stand on green lawns in strapless gowns and tuxedos.  Parents and grandparents snap pictures.  A stretch limousine van drives around the block. 

Another prom season. 

Another season of excess.

For what each of my daughters spent on dresses, transportation, jewelry, tickets, I’d wager we could have four more maple rocking chairs in the house.  But it’s their money.  It’s their lesson to learn.

I head in.  Seeing the waste, I have to get rid of something.  I walk around the house until I spy my exercise tapes.  There are seven of them, a few still wrapped in plastic.  Yoga, Pilates, exercise ball tapes…all gone.  I’ll never have sculpted arms.  I’ll never be able to wear a bikini.  I’ll never look like Ana Caban.  And that’s OK.  I pack them up and ship them to Amazon and receive in trade-in a fraction of what I originally spent. 

I think about Russell Baker delivering his newspapers at midnight.  I think of the Amish man who made my husband’s rocking chair.  I think about how Baker and the Amish would never need exercise videos and tennis lessons.  I think about Baker’s wedding reception, hosted at his mother’s house because they couldn’t afford a hall.

I think about how easily and how much we waste.  And I wonder what skills my husband and I have given our children.  What thing of value can they produce?

On the street, the limo passes by.

And I take my box of exercise videos to my car.

Labels: ,

4 Comments:

At April 15, 2012 at 5:08 PM , Anonymous Sandra said...

This is something I think about as a parent, too. In my native language, 'hardship' is literally translated as 'eat bitter'. I often think that our children and their generation,will eat very little bitter as compared to my generation, and even more so my parents' generation. Sometimes we as parents even live vicariously through our own kids as we are able to provide them what we couldn't have as children. I guess we just hope that we teach the kids enough common sense and not taking things for granted, and hope that they will not make waste in the bigger sense of the word. BTW, I also have a few workout DVDs that I've opened and watched, um, once. But to make myself feel better, at least I didn't join a gym and never go. =)

 
At April 15, 2012 at 5:26 PM , Anonymous Kgwaite said...

Eat bitter is such a neat way of thinking about it! Thanks for reading, Sanda. I joined a gym for my family and found we never used it. So that was the very first thing I got rid of:

 
At April 16, 2012 at 2:03 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth Young said...

You are the first woman in the entire history of womankind brave enough to admit she got rid of her exercise tapes because she didn't use them. Inside of me a primeval scream is still sounding: YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!!!!! Sister, you and I are attached at the hip forever, alah Siamese twins side, only my sides probably heavier, but who cares? LOL

 
At April 16, 2012 at 2:25 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I'm still laughing at your comment, Elizabeth! Thanks for stopping by. I'll have to let you know the next time I'm up your way. I need to meet my twin.

 

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