A creative nonfiction tale
“What are those?”
I tried will little success to hide the four wooden rackets I held in my hands while a slow crimson crept up my neck. It was impossible to miss the skepticism and disdain in the tennis instructor’s voice. Flanked by my equally taken aback family, we first gawked at the man, dressed in the finest and latest tennis attire, and then at the four objects of his scorn.
I experienced a deep-seated understanding for how Moses must have felt when his staff had turned into a snake, and he had to grab it by the tail, in a demonstration in front of the Pharaoh, centuries ago.
Had I known the gravity of my social blunder even to be seen holding a genuine Dunlop Maxply wooden racket in public, I would have thought twice. Worse still, expecting to play with it on those illustrious indoor courts, and thirdly, hoping the man would instruct us in the basics of the game of tennis with us brandishing ancient rackets, I would have spared us all the embarrassment.
I had to consciously bite my tongue, to withhold me from telling the instructor what he could do with his fancy carbon fiber racket. Knowing me, my spouse touched my sleeve—there was no need for her to say a word.
I considered the wisdom of sharing with the man the significance of us just being there, having paid for the first lesson, demonstrating our sincerity. Our family of four, with the wooden rackets (and no less, brand new tennis balls), had thought it not a bad idea to explore a new indoors physical activity, what with a city where the winter temperatures plummet into the low minus twenties and thirties for weeks and months on end. The girls had already been introduced to skating and cross-country skiing but were reluctant to venture outside, even to frolic in the snow, with the wind chill hovering around skin-freezing temperatures.
I wanted to tell him that we’ve been in the country (that nestled intimately to the thighs of the North Pole) barely fifteen months and had previously played with said rackets on balmy outdoor courts, an ocean away, unhindered by mountains of the whitest snow. Tell him that we were used to winters where it was ‘bitter cold’ when there was overnight frost. Yes, frost. When the mercury dipped to minus five, the weather bureau would turn it into breaking news, using phrases such as, ‘in human history.’ I wanted to tell him that it was a true story that I had witnessed and played in the snow in my grade three years with the countryside covered with a delicate alabaster blanket for an entire day.
My spouse squeezed my arm harder, and I let out a shuddering breath, unclenching my fists, having handed the rackets to the girls.
Armed with a water-tight smile, I coaxed the instructor to humor our two daughters and proceeded with the lesson, vintage rackets in spite.
Without any parental nudging, as we clipped our safety-belts in place in the vehicle following the lesson, the girls declared in no uncertain terms that they had no further wishes to pursue a future in tennis; they even voiced their willingness to go “cross-country skiing again with Dad, provided the wind chill was forgiving.”
And that was that. Another dream crushed.
It is, therefore, any wonder that you haven’t seen me in all these recent years on the Wimbledon circuit, hitting yellow balls with fiber carbon rackets, dressed in tennis finery? Not since I wouldn’t part with my wooden rackets!
The moral of the story is perhaps that we so quickly jump to conclusions about people, close-up or from afar, making assumptions, based on our worldview (which may be narrow-minded, tunnel-visioned, and ill-informed) often writing them off as lost causes—while knowing so little about them, about their hopes and dreams and fears and aspirations.
We can change that—with a little practice, some unbiased curiosity, and a healthy helping of generosity—it will take us a long way!
Thank you for reading!
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