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
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: Consumption, Raising Children