THWACK! is a beautiful sound.
So is SSLRP!
These are two noises I easily associate with my youth, and, in particular, my youth while around my dad. We’re playing softball. He pitches, I swing, he catches.
Rinse and repeat.
These buzzy, breezy, warm summer afternoons are all snugly tucked deep into the depths of my childhood memory treasure chest.
I’m also totally addicted to the sound of PING and PONG.
These tiny blips of sound snippets fill the space between my son and myself as we face one another and focus on the small, plastic white ball that rapidly zips between us.
It is an addiction we share—this undeniable craving to master the trajectory of an object in motion as well as the desire to outwit one’s opponent.
I’m not sure which one is more important to me—skill or sagacity.
Okay, maybe crushing my challenger ekes out smidge above pure talent, but surely I cannot be blamed for that. Perhaps that is Mother Nature’s way of saying, Genetically, this version of a person doesn’t totally suck. Let’s make her a fighter and see what happens in the wild.
Table tennis was another one of those gladdening games my father took the time to teach each one of his kids. It didn’t require an enormous amount of exertion, but rather focused on hand-eye coordination with a hefty sprinkling of on your feet, forward thinking dexterity. Not something your average nine-year-old has mastered, but if you set up a rigid, unrelenting schedule of early rising, all day training under the guidance of a brutal drill sergeant, your proficiency skyrockets.
Except, we didn’t do that.
My training was filled with way too much giggling to be taken seriously.
And it is what I love most about playing ping pong with my son.
When put into the same room with a sixteen-year-old boy, one often struggles—nay, labors with intense strain to find common ground—a place where he can hear my parental pearls of wisdom and I can be assured that his language skills still exist and are being exercised.
And one must toil in this manner if one hopes for a future where one is not surrounded by a group of unfortunate, drooling elderly who feast on antipsychotics for breakfast, sit for much of the day slumped in a wheelchair and chew on their hands for entertainment.
No. I’ve documented these last few years, and will continue to do so, in an effort to prove to my son that even though most psychologists agree there is no other reasonable explanation for why teenagers behave the way they do other than the fact that aliens have covertly swooped in one night and sucked out their brains,
Seems fair enough, right?
Therefore, through the rigors of trial and error, we have hunted to find a shared activity. I have discovered that getting our nails done together is out. Watching soapy chick flicks with a pitcher of margaritas between us is definitely out. And sharing the writing of this week’s flowery batch of rhapsodic fan mail to Neil deGrasse Tyson will likely be a flop as well.
We are left with sports.
Since one must bend to the lowest common denominator here— meaning my son cannot/will not attempt baton twirling or curling on ice, and I have more than a little bit of trouble throwing myself in front of a soccer ball traveling at breakneck speed, we are left with some softer athletic choices.
Ping pong it is.
We’ve spent a couple of months sizing one another up. It’s been years since I’ve played competitively … okay, I’ve never played table tennis competitively, but I am a very competitive player—and my son knows that. I usually don’t shy away from the ball, unless he is attempting to lodge it in the space between my eyes. And as much as I’ve requested that these games between us do not include any skeletal denting, I’ve also told him not to go all soft on me.
I aim to beat him.
Because the point of this endeavor is to teach him how to be a good loser.
Thus far, we have lost seven ping pong balls—four to the dog who sees them as neutral flavored, un-legged white mice,
two behind the ancient organ that magically sucks them up and transports them through a Wurlitzer wormhole into another dimension, and one to a full, crushing body slam that may have damaged a few internal organs, but was impressive enough to justify.
We have both lost a layer or two of some of the skin that protects our hands, arms, and hips, as the sides of the ping pong table are about as sharp as Winston Churchill’s rapier wit.
And we have lost hours of precious playing time arguing whether or not a ball was on the line, off the line or possessed by a demonic spirit that should not be attributed to our skills or lack thereof.
If my aim was to teach my son how to lose graciously in life, I think I’d have to admit to having learned the same lesson.
When it comes down to it, we’ve lost ourselves … in the fun of it all.
Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.