Pickleball

I’ve been meaning to tell you that I’m an athlete now.

When Bob “retired” back in July he started playing pickleball three times a week. He’d probably play more but it might interfere with his golf game or his going back to the office as a contract employee (kind of like retirement light). Bob has a lot of energy and the heat down here in Florida doesn’t keep him from playing these outdoor games.

Then there’s me. The summer sun beating down on me can almost keep me from going to the mailbox. That may be a slight exaggeration, but after sweating that 15-yard walk (x2 since I have to return) six days a week, May through October, I’m ready to take a dip in the pool. I garden on the shady side of the house only in the late afternoon or after dinner. Once when I parked far away from a store just to park in the shade, my daughter told me she thought shade was my idol. She’s not completely wrong.

But Bob wanted me to play pickleball with him, and I love that. It was so sweet of him, especially since he knows darn well that there is not an athletic bone in my body. I am competitive, so I guess he thought that might see me through. I agreed to play but insisted I’d start in November or December after the blistering heat had subsided. That would up the chance that I might like it (from 10 percent to about 30 percent). Then we all got COVID in November, so that gave me a pickleball reprieve until December.

December arrived and I couldn’t come up with more excuses, so finally Bob got me to go with him to the neighborhood courts, which was great as I didn’t have an audience. We had a couple practice sessions and then joined the regular Wednesday night group, which he had already become a part of.

Pickleball, despite its ridiculous name, has a few things going for it. It’s played with a wiffle ball, so it doesn’t hurt too much if you get hit. The court is slightly smaller than a tennis court, so less running. To me it felt like ping pong, only with large paddles and strange scoring and rules. The part of the court close to the net is called the kitchen, and you are not supposed to go in there. That was endearing.

The most surprising part of the game was that I liked it. Right away. Even though I was just learning and wasn’t good at it yet. I’ve only been playing for about six weeks, so I’m still not “good,” but I am improving. I set the bar for enjoyment pretty low, and I have leap-frogged over it. I now even suggest playing pickleball, much to Bob’s delight. We are teaching friends to play. It’s practically a miracle!

But that was before the injury. Last week I sustained a hamstring pull. Yep, I pulled a hammie! I must be an athlete! In validation of my athleticism, I would have high-fived my friend who was with me, but I could barely walk, so that will have to wait.

The irony is that I sustained this injury while bird watching. I am still in disbelief that my hobby has so cruelly turned on me. We were walking along the shores of Lake Apopka, enjoying the beautiful, cool January day, spotting alligators and birds, and wham – I nearly did a face-plant after tripping on a partially buried rock. I guess I should have stretched before doing such rigorous exercise.

It might be a couple weeks before I’m back on the court. I sure hope this doesn’t hurt my game!

American Alligator posing at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Various ducks and water fowl on Lake Apopka

Bird Watching in the Sixties

“Mom, why is there a statue of a naked lady in our backyard?”

This is a question that I thankfully never had to answer, but my poor mother did – just this morning.

My mother has influenced my life in countless ways.  Her love of birds has been passed down to each of her children. While I was growing up, there was always a feeder in our backyard, and we learned to identify the local birds at a young age.  We also had a bird bath featured prominently off our back porch.  When I was nine I took this picture of my parents, grandparents, and my little sister.  The statue in the bird bath is featured in the foreground.  I can picture my mom, so wanting to encourage me in my new hobby, and so wanting to pose for the picture anywhere else.  (Hey, how about we stand in front of those garbage cans?  The light is great there!)

The picture is blurry, just like Mom and Dad's recollection of the bird bath statue.

The picture is blurry, just like Mom and Dad’s recollection of the bird bath statue.

I have several scenarios in my head as to why there was a nude woman in the middle of our bird bath.  I debated whether or not to ask my parents about it.  (I didn’t want to bring up any old arguments.)  Finally I couldn’t stand all the questions circling in my mind so I made the call.

I didn’t want to put them on the spot, but inquiring minds want to know.  First I asked Mom.  She had no recollection of it, but got a good laugh out of the question.  Dad also denied any memory of it.  Hum, how could these people, who remember so many details from their 67 years of marriage, have blocked this shocking display from their minds!  (And, why can’t I forget it?)

I picture my dad going to buy it and installing it in the backyard without Mom’s input.  He has always been like that.  He’d see something that he thought would work and act on it.  I’m sure he was happy to bless my mom.  I’m also pretty sure Mom would have been happier with a garden gnome.

Things were a lot different in the 1960s.  (They say if you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.)  Perhaps my parents were classier than I give them credit.  Maybe there was an artsy side of them that I did not appreciate at the tender age of nine.  After all, I always liked the velvet painting of a matador that Dad brought home from Mexico.  Yes, that’s the story and I’m sticking with it.