Minutes after arriving at my son’s NYC apartment for a weekend visit, I was elbowing my 10-year-old grandson aside in an indoor game of “Shoots,” desperately trying to out-maneuver and out-shoot Miles and his 8-year-old brother Henry. Few, if any, of my little rubber balls swished through the 12-inch hoop that hangs from the top bunk in their 18x18’ bedroom.
After crushing me at Shoots, Miles said, “Come on Vivi, let’s play Bounce-Off in the living room.” Doing well at Bounce-Off requires the accuracy of a circus knife thrower. I had to toss a ping pong ball into the hole of an egg crate 15 feet away. If really lucky, my ball might bounce off the coffee table surface and land in the hole. No MVP awards for Vivi here, either.
“Wanna watch us play soccer, Vivi?” Miles asked. The two boys plopped on the living room carpet and hunched over a miniature soccer field featuring 18 players on spin rods. With hoots of “I won” and “Not fair,” the boys twisted the rods faster than Lionel Messi shoots goals for Barcelona. Meanwhile, I collapsed on the sofa and caught my breath. I’d only been with them for three hours!
“The Sox game is on,” son Chris announced later that evening. Everyone got in their PJs, Henry donned his batting helmet, Miles pasted baseball stickers in his special binder, and we all cheered starting pitcher Chris Sale, but to no avail. “There’s always tomorrow,” Miles said as he trudged off to bed, shoulders down to his knees.
Yes, the Sox would play Sunday, but not before a day-long trek from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to Randalls Island baseball fields and then on to the National Tennis Center in Queens.
Henry’s team, the Purple Pirates, was battling the Blue Sharks on one of nearly 50 fields in the Randalls Island athletic complex. With jets roaring overhead as they took off from adjacent LaGuardia, Number 11 pitched (“I got two strike outs!”), hit several singles and a double, and played first, second and right field. The morning sun shined brightly on the Purple Pirates, and Henry.
Next stop: the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, where the boys take Sunday hitting lessons. After a quick stop in Astoria for lunch at Kyclades, a fabulous Greek restaurant, we walked into the tennis complex and the boys immediately stopped to check out the Giants-Falcons game on television.
For the next two hours, I watched them stretch, do laps, bounce staccato-like on their feet, serve and volley. After the two hour session, they joined their parents on an outside court “to hit some more.” By this time I felt like I’d climbed Mount Everest. And lived to tell about it.
Then, back to the apartment for supper and …. watching the Red Sox!
Thoughts: I’m astounded by my grandsons’ knowledge of and passion for sports. It’s all good. When asked which sport they like best, they say: baseball, golf, tennis and basketball — “all of them, Vivi.” In a year, one of them may decide to give up sports to become a concert violinist. Or play in the marching band. That’s good too.
Meanwhile, they are learning rules of life, best stated in a guidance letter from the National Tennis Center: “Enjoy the journey. While it’s essential to have fun, we want you to challenge yourself. This program is designed to help you become a better player AND INDIVIDUAL.”