I was never very athletic.
In retrospect, I wonder if this wasn’t part of parental conditioning.
I was a clumsy and whimsical child. When I am encouraged to recall what I loved to do as a kid to ascertain what I am meant to be doing today, it involves lots of paper and notebooks and collages. I wrote. I crafted stories and details about my future life. I was going to have eight children with names like Victoria Elise and Brooke Elizabeth and Mariah Nicole, and I knew what sort of fashion they would be into, and what their bedrooms looked like in painstaking detail. My first novel was entitled “The Way She Fell” and told the story of two sisters, one of which (Mariah) fell to her death during her sixteenth birthday pool party. Only I could never determine if Mariah was actually murdered and by whom? Or if it was an accident? Apparently I also had a knack for uncompleted projects even at age ten, but that’s another post.
I giggled and twirled a lot. My mother still becomes annoyed with me when she recalls: “You just giggled all the time. And smiled. No one knew how smart you were. It was awful.”
I loved to perform, of course, so I was put into dance class at age five or six. Dance requires athleticism and grace, to be sure, but I know some part of me longed to do something else.
So I tried out for teams. I tried out for the basketball team when my best friend’s brother was the coach. “We can make her the mascot,” he said charitably.
Then I played softball for our town in the sixth grade. I remained in the outfield, caught nothing and made no hits, unless I am remembering it wrong. Mostly, I sat on the bench cheering: “KILL THAT BALL!”
And then there was the year I tried out for the softball team in the eighth grade, and I MADE IT. I remember doing fairly well during tryouts, and feeling like the spot was earned.
During that year, I was up to bat exactly twice. I struck out twice. But I definitely shouted “H-O-H-O-M-H-O-M-E-R-U-N!” with great fervor from my warm spot in the dugout.
That same year, we embraced feminism and demanded that we – the eighth grade girls – deserved to play touch football in the school yard, same as the boys. The boys HATED this, and probably us. But we spoke to our teachers and were rewarded with equal playing time. I can still picture the boys sitting miserably on the sidelines. I remain proud of this accomplishment. We genuinely loved the game, and deserved to play.
Once I entered high school, all of my flirtation with team sports ended. I was student council and play geek, through and through.
I have two lovely daughters now. Ailie is nearly three. She is, like her mother, whimsical and giggly. She loves to dance and twirl and perform. Her father is absolutely smitten with her, and insists that we put her in dance class yesterday. We both can’t wait to see her in a sparkly costume, grooving on stage.
She has been asking me to put her in soccer class all summer, which I’ve avoided because she is already in swim class, and with brother in baseball and camps, we are always running somewhere.
Tuesday was Hendrik’s last baseball practice, and families got to participate. When I told Ailie that she would play, she got serious. “I need to wear one of brother’s tee-shirts,” she said, picking a smaller one from the drawer. She let me put her hair back without a fuss. She put on her socks and sneakers. When we arrived, she took her spot on the field, and in the dugout. She threw with abandon. She ran fast. She was so deliciously unselfconscious. I want this for her.