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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanks a lot, kid.

The Smash Hits had a match in Herndon at 9:00 last night.  We field three teams of doubles for every match, and my name wasn't in the lineup.  My mother's was, though.  She's my favorite partner, in part because she didn't press charges for assault when my errant serve beaned her in the back of the head during a match last spring.

Since I wasn't slated to play I volunteered to be the substitute.  Most times we don't need the help and the sub doesn't even go to the match, especially when it's as far away as this one was.

Geographic inconvenience and substitute status aside, I actually had planned to show up. A chance to watch my mom play a match rarely presented itself and I wanted to seize it.

Mid-afternoon yesterday, my phone rang.

"Hey, Wheat," my mom said.  (Hardly anyone in our family calls me by the name on my birth certificate.  When I was a little kid, a teasing neighbor tousled my hair and declared it "wheat" for its noncommittal blondish, brownish color.  The nickname stuck and had long ago displaced my actual name, which, oddly, also owes its origins to a neighbor. More on that some other time. We're only 11 days in to NaBloPoMo and I might need the content. ) "Looks like you'll be playing tonight after all."  Mom explained that one lady's sick child and the unexpected travel of another's spouse had poked a couple holes in the Smash Hits' lineup.

I said I'd be happy to fill in, breaking the other golden rule: Never lie to your mother.

In truth I had no desire to play whatsoever.  My heart had been set on watching my mom's match and sank with the weight of disappointment. I'd really been looking forward to a role reversal.

Much ink has been spilled on the topic of swaps in parent/child dynamics but most of it centers on  aging in our society and how we who were once nurtured by our parents may eventually become their caretakers. Yesterday, I saw a chance to reverse a set of completely different parent-child roles, namely athlete/spectator, and I couldn't wait.

My parents spent years watching as my siblings and I swam, kicked soccer balls, threw baseballs, and hit tennis balls.  At the time, I didn't appreciate their selflessness. Instead, as they schlepped to fields and pools all over Northern Virginia to watch our various scoreboards, I kept one of my own: Did Mom and Dad go to as many of my games and meets as they did my siblings'?  Instead of thinking, "thanks," I only thought, "more."

Those thoughts appall me today.  As an adult, I have a complete understanding of how unbelievably present my parents were and how they supported every single of one of us in everything.  Mom and Dad did this without complaint and while juggling countless other demands.  I don't know how they kept the plates spinning and airborne, or how they made something so hard look effortless.

I didn't appreciate it then, but I do now.  Years ago I managed to pull my fuzz-covered nose out of my navel and realized that, when it came to the parental lottery, I'd hit it big. Huge.

I can't go back and redraw my child self as a portrait of appreciation. But I can work on my acceptance speech for the Ungrateful Brat Award (Lifetime Achievement category) and show my parents some thanks and support whenever the opportunity presents itself, like at a tennis match.

At 8:55 last night our full complement hadn't arrived so I swapped out my spectator garb for athletic clothes. Just as I was about to plod on to Court #1 with a partner I'd never met, the missing Smashes showed up.

Thrilled to be benched, I sat down to enjoy my mom's match. The only thing more rewarding than cheering her on was watching her fire up an ace. Way to go, Mom. I'm proud of you.





14 comments:

  1. Really nice sentiment, K! As one of the adoptive kids of the Yank family, I second the motion. You did hit it big with the 'rents (and the sibs, too!). Lucky girl! We all love ya, Mr. and Mrs. Y!!

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    1. The motion carries! And she really did ace this chick. It might not make SportsCenter but trust me when I say it was a legitimate highlight.

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  2. The hits home with me...the kicking yourself as an adult for not getting the extent of how good you had it as a child. My parents were also my biggest cheering section, pack mules and chaperone volunteers. I can't wait to spend some good time with them over the holidays and thank them. :)

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    1. Um, so due to my blogging incompetence I posted my reply to you as a separate entry. Due to your blogging genius I know you figured this out. But still. Oopsie.

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    2. Kinda like listening to what you mean and not what you say? I gotchyou. :)

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  3. Me, too! Mine still time at my swim meets, if you can imagine. Only when you grow up and your world view expands ever so slightly do you realize you were sitting smack dab in the middle of awesome without even knowing it.

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  4. Awwww...this was such a sweet post! I feel massively guilty/spoiled about my awesome 'rents when I was younger...and my siblings! They came to every concert, every rowing meet (did I mention that means 10 mother's day regattas IN A ROW...in the freezing, sleeting, Canadian spring?). They were saints. And then we abandon them!
    Er, or at least I did...this is encouraging though...I would so love to attend their events! It's never too late!
    Great post.

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    1. Hi, rowmie! Was so glad to see your latest post. Thanks for liking this one! All family-related guilt can be healed if your parents cooperate by signing up for amateur sports. I kid but it's very cool how my mom (at 69) still plays tennis. I thought she'd kill me if I told people she aced someone 20 years her juior--at least--at 69 but she did! And my father coaches an American Legion baseball team every summer still, so I get my butt in the bleachers there when I can, too.

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  5. I was just thinking about this the other day. My parents were there for every recital and performance I ever had. I don't think I complained about it, or competed with my siblings, but I never did thank them, either. I am only starting to realize it as I go to my child's own things (and what do you know, my parents show up for his stuff, as well!). I hope that one day I can turn the tables and witness my parents doing some great feat like serving an ace or whatever. That would be awesome!

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    1. Hi there! In the interest of keeping the post short-ish, I also failed to mention that my mother is, like, the sweetest person ever. (No, I don't know where I came from.) So let's do a dramatic reenactment of the post-ace scene with me as her partner. It would've gone like this:
      [I trot back to the baseline]
      Me: Way to go, Mom!! You served a missile!
      Her: Thanks, Wheat. Though do you think that lady just wasn't paying attention? Where'd you get that cute top, by the way?
      :) My rents are terrific. Sounds like yours are, too!! Oh, and my parents show up at my niece and nephews' events all the time as well. Very high bar these people set for the rest of us, eh?

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  6. What a great tribute to your mom! I especially liked how you point out that the change in parent/child dynamics as the kids become adults center around aging. It doesn't have to be that way! Your mom sounds awesome!

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    1. Thank you, Bee! When thoughts of getting old and all its unpleasant implications start to pull me down, stuff like this offers something of a silver lining. I first typed "sliver" lining and maybe that's true, too. :) Mama Yank rocks.

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  7. This post hits home with me too. My parents, particularly my mother, were always there and instead of being like, "How lucky am I?!" I was like, "Jeez. They're so embarrassing." I love how you wanted to go and watch your mom as a 'thank you' of sorts and your thoughtfulness. Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Lark! I'm heartened to know I wasn't the only one afflicted by bouts of brattiness. :)

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