We went to the tennis courts the other day. All nine of us. After packing the diaper bag, patrolling potty trips, and tying two or three hundred pairs of sneakers, I hopped into the front seat of the van next to my dear husband and he immediately eyed my leather sandals with disdain.
“You can’t play in those!” he scolded me.
I was taken aback. I knew we were going to the tennis courts, but I had anticipated an afternoon of chasing kids around the park, kissing scraped knees, and handing out sippy cups. It had not even occurred to me that I might have opportunity to swing a racket. The very idea amused me.
You see, the game of tennis has romantic connotations for me and it’s not just that “love” stuff in the scoring. Years ago, before we were married, Dan and I used to teach tennis lessons together through our hometown recreation department. When we started out, I scarcely knew which end of the racket to hit the ball with, but Dan fixed all that. He taught me how to play and then play we did.
Five days a week, we’d spend all day in the blazing sun teaching 8 year olds to return a serve and then, because we were crazy teenagers with energy to spare, we’d come back to the courts after dark and play under the lights. For hours at a time. With the moths and the mosquitoes buzzing around us, with bottles of Gatorade on the sidelines, we’d play serious tennis. Until we were totally exhausted. It was more fun than anything I’d ever done before and that was only partly because I was discovering what a terrific guy Dan was. I really liked playing tennis.
Okay, so fast forward eleven years into our marriage. There I sat next to Dan in the front seat of our giant van filled with our seven kids, not having so much as thought about hitting a tennis ball in, oh say eleven years. And now I was thinking about it.
“Okay,” I said, though I wasn’t exactly sure how we were going to pull it off.
Funny thing, though. Not all of our children are babies anymore. They don’t all need my constant undivided attention and some of them are actually helpful in taking care of the ones who do.
When we got to the courts, Dan played tennis with the older kids for a while and then set up the boys in a game of their own. Juliette took over “baby duty” and Kateri followed Gabrielle around as she scooted her plastic riding car around the courts. And Dan and I played tennis. Not a real match, mind you, but tennis all the same. For 45 glorious minutes. I found my forehand and after a bit of searching, I found my backhand too.
It all came back to me surprisingly quickly and then something unusual happened. I remembered what it was like to be just me. And I remembered what it was like to be just us. No kids, no mortgage, no energy-sapping responsibilities.
What amazed me most, however, was that going back like that didn’t feel foreign at all to me. In spite of all that eleven years and seven children have thrown at us, we aren’t that different from the kids we used to be together.
We might not have been Andre and Steffi out there, but we were Dan and Danielle. Just like we used to be. Just like we still are underneath it all.