One thing that makes me happy about my daughter’s tennis game is her carefree backhand. I have raised a daughter who hits a backhand without fretting, without apology; and to put things in positive terms, she gets it over and keeps the rally going.
All of this with a vibrant in-the-moment vibe, punctuated only by Sad Face on the occasional mis-hit. I pantomime racket-smashing or the appearance of being inconsolable on my mis-hits, but in truth I am consoled, am an extension of my racquet and it of me, to be rallying with H (not her real initial; short for Honus, which is what we would have named her in my dreams had she been a boy).
We were playing at the Mar Vista Rec Center, which I have played on before so this doesn’t count as a new court. However, I have changed my perspective on them for the better, so that must count for something. I used to think these courts were schleppy, with ragged nets and worn surfaces. That hasn’t changed, but H and I have been there twice this week and they’ve been almost full both times, lessons on the north end courts, doubles games that appear to have been going on for decades on the middle courts, and two courts free for us to choose. It is great to have a choice so now I think of the Mar Vista courts as a welcoming tennis habitat.
When we got there this morning these four old guys my age-ish, not decrepit, hanging in there, active and vibrant, they were swatting it out. One of them hit an acrobatic backhand volley and then there was some tumult, I didn’t really catch what the what was. H said, “They want you to play with them!”
So nice! So encouraging. She’s always like that, except when I have food on my face, which seems to happen a lot when she’s visiting. I get flustered by joy. Talk about welcoming: there were four cans of perfectly good practice balls waiting for us on our court, so we filled our pockets like chipmunks wearing tennis shorts and then rallied convivially, the father and daughter reunion, only a motion away.
Afterwards the acrobatic guy called to us through the fence, “May I ask what your relation is?” And my first thought was attack, attack. But I held back on the murderous impulse that wells up whenever anyone accosts me in the presence of my daughters and answered factually. H all the while was jotting in her mental notebook where she tallies my over-reactions.
This guy of average build, dark straight hair and merry expression said, “I wonder why you do not tell her to bend her knees on her forehand. She would do twenty percent better.”
My main thought was “Because she didn’t ask me.” Let people play and figure stuff out for themselves, that’s my approach. If they want your opinion, they’ll ask; but there are people in this world who have not had sufficient opportunity to tell other people what to do, and you will often find these people on tennis courts.
H was gracious in maintaining a non-verbal this-is-all-very-interesting demeanor and I succeeded in not melting him with laser eyes. Meanwhile, the secret truth for me is that I have only been knee-bending consciously since last week. This week it’s all about following through at shoulder level and I gotta tell you, I’m seeing about a 20 percent improvement.