Out of Whack

The last time I played tennis, I did – several times – a thing tennis players do. I adjusted the strings of my racket. The impact of the ball at the moment of contact shifts the strings ever so slightly depending on many things like whether the shot has backspin or topspin, how tightly the racket is strung to begin with, the speed of the racket as it heads toward making contact with the ball, the physical strength of the player (mine being not much). Watch those players during the USOpen or Wimbledon and see them do this quite often between points.

Roger Federer likes his racket strung loosely, so the strings easily (considering his spin and strength) shift and get out of their perfect perpendicular formation and into all kinds of wacky, wavy patterns. He often has to adjust the strings that get, one could say, out of whack. Rarely (possibly never) can I use that phrase without remembering when Samuel was five and watching me adjust my strings. I explained what I was doing and he said, “Momma, why can’t the strings just stay in whack?” (Hold that thought.)

federer with strings

See how Roger stands there looking at the racket, fingering the strings?* All us tennis players do this sometimes. (Did you catch that: “All us…” 😊 This is, in fact, one of the only characteristics I have in common with players who really know how to play the game, but I’m darn proud of it!) Besides bringing your strings into correct position (which makes for a better next shot in theory anyway), this activity gives you a moment of focus to (if you are Roger Federer) rethink your strategy for the next point or (if you are me) mentally beat yourself up for the last bonehead shot that was so easy – how could I miss that!!??

Cheryl, Scott, Pat and I play as often as we can on the har-tru hydrocourts at  Keswick Golf Club, a holdover perk from my years as Resident Historian there. Here is an old photo to give you an idea of the lovely setting.

tennis photo2mp (2)

Cheryl, Scott, Pat and I spend close to as much time talking as playing, but we do play, and we occasionally have great points – deft angles, slamming overheads, forehand alley shots that slip right down the line past the net person. We congratulate each other, go collect the ball(s) that went astray and set up for the next point.

So there I was, mid-game, waiting, feigning focus, fingering strings, when I saw something astounding: DIRT!! Tennis is a clean game, I assure you. Dirt??!! Do you see it?

dirty tennis racket2mp

In case you don’t, allow me to show you.

dirty tennis racket_LI

I puzzled. I wondered. I was fully distracted from the next point. Then I remembered Willow.

Willow (2).2mp

Willow was here, beautiful Willow, a dog that will chase a tennis ball all the day long. I’d been out there with her as often as I could, more times per day than I kept track of. Imagine what happens to a tennis ball that gets hit onto a gravel driveway bordered by some grass and a lot of dirt and then mixed with dog slobber? Here she is post-chase taking a quick break under the car with her disgusting prize.

Willow under the car (2)2mp

Ah, that’s where the dirt came from! The thought of her boundless energy warmed my heart as I stared at the dirty racket. She had brought that ball back to me over and over again, and I (with my garden gloves on when I remembered them!) had picked it up and whacked it with my racket yet again and off she would tear in hot pursuit. No wonder my strings were dirty!

As you see though, (and I noticed sadly) my strings are not out of whack. Pathetic, weakling stroke I must have these days. Maybe the workouts at the gym will remedy that, but alas, another conversation.

Now back to the phrase: Charming and adorable as Samuel was at five (still is at 25!), we simply don’t say that the strings of a tennis racket are in whack! What else don’t we usually say?

Lincoln was talking about Sandy the other day, about how he keeps going despite sometimes not feeling well. Lincoln said, It wouldn’t do for him to think he was vinsible.

Why do we say right as rain but not right as sunshine?

Why do we say the kiss of death, not the kiss of life?

Why is it always discombobulated and never combobulated or simply bobulated?

Why do we tell people not to be a wet blanket but we never encourage them to be a dry blanket?

Why do we call a small person (in jest of course) a shrimp and not a plankton?

Why hasn’t the handwriting on the wall morphed to the printout on the wall?

Something  with this system is surely out of whack!


Thank you, WSJ, for the Federer photo!

Morning Bumbles

I play tennis on Sunday mornings with Scott, Cheryl and Pat. It is possible that we talk as much as we play, but I have never timed the breaks between every other game and every set, so I can’t know for sure. Nobody seems to mind, and we learn a lot about each other and our families, and of course solve the problems of the world every week.

Here we are after this week’s three sets:


Pat opened today with a doozy of a story about what happened at her house this morning. She was preparing her morning coffee — feeling a little fuzzy-headed yet, it being so early — at the same time as she was looking for her cell phone. “I can never find my phone,” she said. Bumbling around, still half dazed, her routine is to zap her coffee in the microwave for 30 seconds, which is what she thought she had done. Thirty seconds isn’t very long, but at the end of it, there was a bad smell and she opened the microwave to discover her melted cell phone in there!

This is what NOT to do, even when you don’t want to talk 🙂

cell phone in microwave.jpg

Scott said his morning wasn’t quite that bad, but when he went to get his coffee, which he prepares in the drip maker the night before, he said to himself, “I wonder if I remembered to put the coffee in.” When he got to the kitchen he discovered that he had indeed not remembered to put the coffee in, nor the water (!), which of course did not result in a cup of coffee at his usual time.

I am a tea drinker, and often use a terrific little strainer that my sister Lynn got me. It sits in the cup. You put the loose tea leaves in it and pour the water over the top. Then you can take out the strainer and the leaves come with it. Left behind in your cup is the hot drink that has been my steadiest companion for years.

Only today I poured the hot water into the cup without the strainer in it. Dope. So I got the strainer and the tin of loose tea and put a spoonful of leaves into the hot water in my cup and put the strainer in after that. A lot of good the strainer does if the tea leaves are not in it!

The leaves float to the top, so if the leaves are in the strainer it will not look like this:


It will look like this:


Cheryl said she went to feed the dog and found herself pouring Cheerios into his bowl!

We told those stories, cracked up and started hitting balls to warm up. The weather was perfect, low 80s, sunny, light breeze. We then played three sets of really good tennis, lots of great shots, close games and good points. We did what people around the world do every single day, and what every sensible person should do: Do not let your morning bumbles get in the way of your fun!