It’s been unseasaonably warm this week, and we are trying to take full advantage of it.  I’ve had windows wide open as often as possible.  The kids are playing outside without jackets.  We even plan to hit the bike path this Friday.  But last night, we headed out for tennis.  I stuffed the kids full of steak and cheese Sloppy Joe’s (was a good first attempt; needs tweaking) and told them to find their shoes and sweatshirts.  

Before dinner the youngest had come down the stairs dressed and ready to go.  And I do mean dressed.  He had on all his gear: his wicking shirt, his athletic shorts, he even had his “they don’t match anything, but Grammie gave me these so I’m proudly wearing them” knee high althletic socks.  Between the hyper blue shirt and the orange and green socks, he looked a flat riot.  Like some very short soccer star.  It was awesome.  He sat down at the table to do his homework and declared that all he needed now was a headband.  I pulled one out of the grocery bag.  The one that had the tennis balls I had bought that morning.  His face lit up.  I stood behind the kitchen island looking at my eldest, while the youngest did a dance over his new gear.  The eldest caught my look and said, “I love that face!” which means my face must have had an impish gleam that gave away the fact that I bought a headband for him too.  

Shoes on and sweatshirts in hand, we all poured out the door to get into Dad’s vehicle, otherwise known as “The Beast.”  Problem.  We are missing a racket.  We make a search for it, but we’re burning daylight so opt to head out with only three rackets and a promise to find the eldest’s later.  It was a half hour of play before it got so dark that we couldn’t see the ball.  (And decided that a lit-from-within tennis ball is a must for nighttime play.)  We also couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights at the courts.  So we piled back in the Beast with a seriously bummed out little guy, and headed to see if the gym’s courts had lights.  It’s an older court and smaller, with cracks and divots, but it’ll do in a pinch.  

Ten minutes later, we are at the court waiting for the sodium lights to turn on fully.  At one point while the lights are warming up, the youngest’s red cheeks looked positively purple and I apparently looked full on yellow.  Soon, though, they are all the way lit and we managed to get in another half hour playing tennis in the dark, before we had to head for home and bed, with the promise to play tennis the very next warm week.

Now it may seem odd that I am posting this on a blog I have dedicated to the gaming fun my family and I have.  But it’s not odd, nor out of place.  You see, we learned of Boyo the Second’s love of tennis from video games.  First from WiiSports.  And then confirmed in Mario Power Tennis.  He was all of two going on three, and when he played the Wii, he would play tennis.  A lot of tennis.  Using the Wiimote left handed, mind you.  The Wiimote uses your positioning of it as you swing at the ball on screen, holding the Wiimote as if it was a tennis racket handle.  I have no idea how long it might have taken us to figure out in real life that the youngest liked tennis if he hadn’t been exposed to it through video games.  I happened to mention his love of tennis to his preschool, and they guided me to our Tennis Association that at the time had classes for kids as little as three.  

Oh, his face when we got him his first racket.  Blue, of course.  We would go out into the back yard and he would hit balls I lobbed his way.  He adored Abby, his first teacher.  At the end of the session, she gave him a kickball-sized ball that was made to look like a tennis ball, fuzz and all.  He still has it.  And he’s played tennis nearly every year since, with the eldest joining in on the fun in more recent years.  

When it’s dark, or cold, or raining outside, the youngest will still bring out the tennis games to play.  But last night in the spring-like warmth of a late winter’s night we got to go and play in real life, volleying and chasing missed balls around the courts, our laughter punctuating the dark.  

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