This morning Kaitlyn was whining about eating at canteen (an activity she used to like… I think her little friend who hates canteen is polluting Kaitlyn’s opinion of it). So I told her a secret: my tennis classes start today and I am terrified because they’ll be in French with people I don’t even know. And I told her that when I get scared like that, I think of how brave Kaitlyn is being at school all day in French and eating at canteen, and I know that I can try to be like Kaitlyn. She didn’t buy it. But I wasn’t just pulling her leg to try to make her stop complaining about canteen. I really woke up scared to death of that class. And I really do remind myself sometimes of all that Kaitlyn has had to adjust to here. She’s had more time spent just thrown into an entirely French environment than either Bill or I.

By the time we got to school, her anti-canteen sentiment had petered out a bit and I got my usual peck on the cheek at the gate just before she went running in. I wasted some time chatting with a couple other parents but eventually it was time to face the court.

The lessons are at the tennis club in Uriage, the picturesque town just below us… the courts are right by the carousel. I got there about 30 minutes early, so I sat in my car and wrote out a to-do list filled with things I don’t want to do because they involve talking to people on the phone in French. I’m still not good at that. I noticed some people were playing tennis, so I thought I’d go ahead and wander over. But when I got to the tennis club, I wasn’t sure what to do. So I just sorta stood around and watched a group of school children run around the park in teams looking for clues that the teacher had hidden ahead of time. Finally, at 5 minutes after the time the class was to start, I thought I’d see if there was a teacher anywhere. I stuck my head in the little “clubhouse” and said I was there for the class. The teacher asked my name then I think said to follow him. Well, if he said it or not, that’s what I did. (Thank goodness he didn’t go to the bathroom.)

We walked to the court where four women were playing, warming up for the class. They stopped and I was instantly intimidated. All four are moms at Kaitlyn’s school. They are usually hanging around outside the gate talking. They may have once said hello to me… maybe. And here they were: my partners for a year’s worth of tennis lessons. Maybe I looked nervous. They all smiled and said “bonjour.” One asked my first name. Then they all stood around and practiced saying “Mandy… Mandy…. Mandy.” It was actually a little weird. I didn’t ask their names. I wouldn’t remember anyway. The teacher launched into some explanation about I have no idea what. I was trying to make sense of that when another mom from school walked up… a Brit. Thank goodness. Then another American arrived. Not that I want to use translators forever. Just for tennis… at least for a start.

The teacher was very nice to me. He told me to ask him to slow down if I needed. He stopped and helped me out a couple of times and I even managed to ask him a question.

The lesson itself was not like a tennis lesson I’m used to. I’m used to everyone standing on one side of the net, the teacher on the other lobbing balls practically at your racket. Here, he had us pair off and volley… four people on a court at a time… all trying to play with the person either directly across or diagonally across. No easy task with everyone playing at once. Still, somehow he made sense of it and managed to point out weaknesses, give advice, even the occasional “tres bien!” compliment.

By the time we left I realized I’m really a bad tennis player. I realized I’m getting old, because my shoulder hurt from 90 minutes of swatting at the ball. And I realized I’d kinda like to actually get paired with one of those French moms to play…. eventually.

One Response to “Deuce”

  1. D.A.D. says:

    You’ve excelled at skiing. Tennis is exactly the same thing, except you are swinging your arms instead of your legs, and there’s flying balls instead of snow, and the net keeps you from running into your opponent as opposed to when skiing nets catch you from falling out of those chairs they hang from a cable so coyotes don’t bite your legs while you climb the mountain. You could talk with your Brit & American co-players in English like the manicurists do in Chinese or Thai and the French moms wouldn’t know if you were dishing their plays or not. See, tennis is just like skiing or getting a manicure, and you’re good at those so you’ll be just fine.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.