On Wednesday the girls and I set out to play tennis, but it quickly became a game of sticker ball. On the way to the tennis courts, Lilah got 12 stickers in her flip flop. As we hit balls back and forth, Annabelle picked up a sticker in her barefoot, one of the hard, thorny ones. Whenever the ball bounced off the court and into the surrounding grass, it got covered with stickers. Whoever retrieved it had to pick it up delicately. I found that raking the ball across the wire fence in back of the court helped to dislodge the stickers effectively.
When we weren't battling stickers, we were being beaten by the wind, which blew our hair into our faces, and blew the ball back onto our side if we hit it over the fence too weakly. And then there was the constant glare of the sun in our eyes. Playing tennis in western Kansas is exhausting!
It made me appreciate how tough our girls' tennis team was in high school. We routinely played in gusty prairie winds and in the blazing heat of cloudless skies. I remember a tournament we played out in Tribune. We drove out in the morning and ate at a little place called the Feedlot Cafe. The name should tell you something about how the whole town smelled.
The tennis courts were located somewhere on the outskirts, out in the big wide open under an intense amount of sunshine. There was no shelter, not an inch of shade, and I got a nasty sunburn that day. And water? I'm sure I drank some, but I don't remember people carrying around water bottles like they do now.
I wasn't an athlete and was just an okay player, but tennis was the one sport I could play without embarrassing myself totally, thanks to all the time Deana and I had spent on the courts during our goofing off hours. We had spent many an evening on the tennis court hitting balls back and forth, yelling at the top of our lungs, trading pretend insults, (and a few obscenities) and one time, we had an epic fight that we both remember to this day. We were both juniors, and the other two girls on the team were seniors (yes, there were only four of us on the team), and they both ended up getting pregnant and had to quit the team before the school year was over.
Back then I played with a fiberglass Yamaha racket. I had talked mom in laying down $50 for it, an incredible extravagance that would have been unthinkable when all five kids were still under the roof. But I was the last child at home, and could shake down my parents more easily than my older siblings. I still have that racket, and still bring it out here on visits to western Kansas, and usually end up playing with it. The kids prefer to use the vintage wooden rackets I bought used off of Craig's list.