Our Parents Play Tennis

We are on a family vacation, with just my four adult siblings and their spouses, (no grandkids!) and we are playing tennis.

Tennis has been part of my family’s vacations and holidays for as long as I can remember, and the in-laws have sort of had to accept it as part of marrying into our family.

I walk up to the courts, hearing the familiar thwacking that has come to signal leisure in my brain, and start watching my parents. Dad slams a backhand that whizzes just over the net, and Mom answers it with a ripping forehand that sends him running.

Were they this good at tennis when we were growing up? I don’t remember them being so good.

It really isn’t snobby, my parents’ affinity for tennis. It isn’t WASPy, they do not wear argyle. And yet seems to represent something I can’t quite figure out—perhaps that they have made it. After raising five kids, working forty years at the same job, the job that paid for the mortgage on the house in the suburbs, and college, and weddings, the job that has almost run its full course, tennis is what my parents have decided to do with their now-disposable income. Private lessons with friends. Trips to California to watch a tournament. A subscription to the Tennis Channel.

And now, they are delighted to have all of their grown children here playing tennis all together! They quickly offer up their court so we can play, Mom handing out extra visors to anyone who dares wear one. But it is ugly, the way we play this game. I shank an unintentional lob off the frame of my racket. My brother slams an overhead into the net. We all lose our serves. It is hilarious fun, but as we play I wonder if there is not some correlation between the life my parents have had and their love for this most privileged of sports.

They belong to the generation where people picked a real job in college and stuck with it. They were doctors or lawyers or business people. No one was writing tweets for a living. My older siblings are all smart and hard working, with good jobs that show potential for a tennis-playing future, but I don’t really know about myself.

I belong to the millennial generation, the one that suffers from the dreaded “E” word. At age 27 I have already jumped to a second career path, hoping that my real love of writing will someday turn itself into a way to pay rent. But currently I am sort of floundering through my working life, wondering how we could possibly afford to have children in this city, let alone buy a house or pay for college.

I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t learn to play tennis until their adult years, so as I watch my nearly-retired father place an effortless volley right down the line, I wonder, will I get there? Is it in my generation to have the career that can support the five kids and the house and the college and the weddings?

Maybe we will get to be where they are someday. Or maybe they just don’t make ’em like they used to.

Our parents play tennis, and they are so much better than any of their kids.


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