Friday, July 3, 2009

Tennis in the Woods

All day Thursday I was excited about Mr. Trizzle cooking dinner.  As the bus bumped along on the way home from work, I smiled, thinking about how wonderful it would be to get home and relax for a change.  Then, 3 stops and 4 blocks from home, my phone rang.  I’m so hood… and I wear my pants.. "Hey. What’s up?”  It’s Mr. Trizzle.  He says he’s going to play basketball with The Legend and 8ft-Red.  “I probably won’t be home for dinner,” he says.  “Oh, and if you’re not home in the next 5 to 10 minutes, I’ll probably be gone before you get here.”  Gee, thanks.

The bus inches forward at the red light. Turns the corner. Welcome to El Cerrito, I pull the cord.  Off the bus, four blocks I’m walking, trying not to fume.  After all, Mr. Trizzle should be able to go play basketball; it’s not his fault his friends picked the day he was finally going to try cooking dinner. 

Well, I know Mr. Trizzle only moves at one speed, the speed of Trizzle, and that’s not very fast.  So, as I figured, I was home before he left.  Giving him vampire  a little (in a very joking manner) for having to play basketball only when he had other duties.  Then I found out, they were playing at Cordonices Park.  That was all I needed to know, I was going too!

Cordonices has this amazing, giant, concrete slide.  It’s so fun, and so scary, I’ve only gone down it twice.  Once each time I’ve been to the park.  And that includes this trip.

But, I didn’t start at the slide.  I started in the rose garden on the other side of the street.  I don’t know if it’s because everywhere in California is running out of money, or what, but the rose garden looks less like a garden and more like the surroundings of a fairy tale castle.  Thorny bushes rise up above my head, stretching and drooping into the paths.  In some places, the weeds rise up taller than the roses.  In others, the paths are so overgrown with weeds, they’re really no longer paths.

I wandered through the rose area and then into the woods.  Taking thin trails that wound around half buried steps leading nowhere, I ducked under tree branches and side-stepped overgrown vines.  The gentle roar of traffic came down from the street so near, above the trees.  Yet, the sounds of birds chirping and animals running under leaves was so close, it could almost drown out the traffic.  I continue along the paths, feeling lost in my own enchanted forest, and then, came abruptly upon a fence, a backyard with a swingset and house.

The park is completely surrounded by residences.  Each house I stumbled upon seemed to have its own gate, clearly marked private, leading directly into the rose garden forest.  The backs of buildings pressed up against chain link fences really ruined the whole ‘lost in the woods’ feel of the park.  I turned away and headed down a path further from the edge.  Stopping at a giant tree, I contemplated climbing it for awhile.  Deciding against it, I headed back into the rose area and wandered around the shambles.  I stopped to rest on an old wooden bench next to the tennis courts.

Whop.  Whop.  Chirp.  Flutter.  Sh sh sh shh.  The sounds of tennis balls bouncing intermingled with the beautiful blue bellied birds hopping in the leaves behind me.  The cool breeze blew past, fluttering the rose petals on the arbor high above me.  Sweet smells drifted in the air.

Whop.  Chirp.  Whop.  “Daddy, there’s one open.”  A little boy, about four years old ran down the steps under the arbor, past me, to an open tennis court at the bottom of the sculpted hill.  He was carrying his father’s full size racket and his own little racket with a tiny handle.  “Ok.  We can use that one.”  The father followed far behind, helping his two year old daughter down the steps. 

“Daddy, I wanna go this way.”  The little girl tried to go towards the garden area.  “No.  We’re going to play tennis first.  We can go there later.”  “Can we go in the secret paths?”  “Yes, we can go through the secret paths after tennis.”  I wondered if to the little girl, those paths really were secret.  The same paths I had wandered on before stopping to rest on this bench.  If to her, her father was the only person in the world who knew about them.  And he had shared this special knowledge with only her and her brother.  The way Alfred and I felt about the mud path near our old house when we were little.

It was only a small path that ran along the ridge high above the railroad tracks, lined with trees and thick bushes.  Much closer to civilization than we ever realized.  Daddy showed us the path once when we went walking somewhere.  It connected the two through-streets next to our dead end.  After that, it became our secret mud path.  We would spend hours exploring it, this 2 block stretch of woods.  Sometimes, we would travel very, very far, venturing all the way to the great field opening, a whole block away!

As my sister and I emerged from the woods in my mind, the family was beginning their tennis game down below.  I sat on my bench, my back to the courts, listening to them play.  “Daddy, I can do it!”  “You want to serve?  Ok.”  I turned to look.  The boy took a golf like swing at the ball he held in front of his racket.  Whop.  bounce, bounce bounce.  “Matilda, can you get the ball.”  Ah, so that’s how the two-year old’s included, she’s the ball girl. 

As I listened to them play, my mind began to wander.  I pictured the father and son, here, playing tennis 15 years from now.  The boy, a strong tall teenager.   The father with streaks of grey in his long, wavy, black hair.  They’d just finished a game.  Lots of running, sweat coming through their t-shirts, hair a bit wet.  They were done for the day.  Carrying their rackets and heading toward the gate, the son threw his arm around his dad, laughing, he teased him.  “Remember when you used to always beat me, Dad?”  The dad smiled.  “Looks like I’m catching up on you old man.”  The son still chuckling, the father pretended to look a little hurt, but inside, he was proud of his son.  His mind wandered, back to today.  He was thinking about the little four year old boy with his tiny handled racket yelling “Daddy, I can do it!” and taking that lobbing swing at the ball already almost on the ground.


MaryRuth said...

awww...what a sweet story! I will await your report on the postponed dinner. It is only postponed, right?

goldenrail said...

sure, postponed...indefinitely.