Tubing Gone Wrong

Happy boy sleding on a tube.

It was our first Christmas without Mom, and my sister’s and nephew’s second holiday without husband and father.  We agreed that spending Christmas in a “neutral” location was best and decided that an adventure in the mountains of North Carolina was in order.  I, having torn a ligament in my knee some years past, am forbidden from donning skis.  My sister felt that many months with her leg in a cast would not suit, and therefore declined to ski.  So, tubing it was, and we were all excited about hurling ourselves down the side of a mountain on a giant inner tube.

There was just one teeny-tiny glitch.  No snow.

Plans B and C quickly went into effect.

First, we went to the outdoor ice rink and laced on skates along with many other would-be tubers and skiers.  After her tenth fall, my sister had had enough, and we wandered back to our cabin for coffee and hot chocolate.  Given that one of us was decidedly worse-for-the-wear the next day, we three non-tubing vacationers eschewed additional ice-skating and took off for Grandfather Mountain.  It was a glorious winter day, cold and clear with bright sunshine. We managed a short hike before walking across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, with a little browsing in the gift shop in between.  All of us declared the day a success.

Although the absence of snow deterred us from our original plan, we had a great time just being together and enjoying the beauty of the mountains.  And what of tubing?

We’re going again this year.

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Forty-three Years

fountain

The sky was November blue, endless and impossibly clear, full of bright sunlight. People were dressed in winter attire, bundled against the crisp air in coats, scarves, and gloves in every shade.  Still, the predominant color was green.  Marshall University green.  Thundering Herd green.  We Are Marshall green.

I was watching a live stream of the ceremony in front of the Marshall University Memorial Fountain, held annually to honor everyone who died in the plane crash outside of Huntington, WV, on November 14, 1970.  Seventy-five people, including members of the Marshall football team, coaching staff, University personnel, and fans perished in the crash.  I was ten years old and unsure how to react to a tragedy of such immense proportions.  Schoolmates lost parents and grandparents, brothers, and aunts and uncles; it was difficult to grasp the enormous loss and pain shrouding an entire community.

Although it has been nearly thirty years since I have called Huntington home, I was drawn to today’s event as a daughter of the town and one who experienced the tragedy up close.  The water in the fountain gurgled gently throughout the ceremony, soothing music that helped ease the sadness of the occasion.  When all the remarks, prayers, and songs were concluded, a memorial wreath was placed in front of the fountain.  Fittingly, one of this year’s wreath-bearers was a first responder to the crash site that November long ago.  After the name of each person killed was read aloud, the fountain was turned off, as is customary, and will remain silent until next spring.

The water was stilled temporarily.  The memories of 75 special people remain forever. They were, and are, Marshall.

It Doesn’t Add Up

Tennis Anyone?
Tennis Anyone?

It sometimes reminds me of those terrible puzzles that ask “how many triangles/rectangles/squares can you find in this picture?”  The mere thought of them makes me cringe, causing my mind to wander back to the horrors of 10th-grade geometry.  In this case, the shapes in question are rectangles, specifically the boxes that constitute a standard tennis court.  Suffice it to say that there are several, albeit fewer on the rare court without doubles lines.

Tennis is all about lines and angles, both in the structure of the court and in playing strategy.  The baselines, service lines, service boxes, and doubles alleys make up a regulation court.  Players hit the ball cross court or down the line.  They angle serves wide to the left or right of the recipient to make returning the ball more difficult.  Volleys from the net are meant to be crisp, short strokes designed to angle the ball out of the opponent’s reach.  When properly executed, a perfectly arced lob serves as both an offensive and defensive weapon, depending on the circumstance of the shot.

It’s a game that I love and play as often as possible, yet my enthusiasm seems somehow misbegotten.  How can someone who despised geometry be so crazy about tennis?  I never could grasp the concepts of angles, shapes, arcs, and planes.  Or fractals.  What are they, anyway?  Hours of agony trying to understand theorems and then solve problems that were hopelessly beyond my comprehension made for some long days.  Why care about angles and lines that will never have any relevance in real life?

If only I had known.

Sister Act

Happy sisters

We are about the same height, have similar sounding voices, and look more and more alike the older we get.  Although we have been mistaken for twins our entire lives, the difference in our looks was startling when we were little girls.  I was a tow-head, she had brown hair, and our faces were distinctly shaped.  Nevertheless, people zeroed in on our brown eyes and equal stature and immediately assumed that we shared a birthday as well.  Now, in middle age, even the two of us marvel at our ever-stronger resemblance.

Our outward characteristics notwithstanding, my sister and I couldn’t be more different. She works with the geriatric population, many of them struggling with dementia; I am an independent college consultant, firmly attached to adolescent beings.  She plays the piano beautifully; I mastered only the radio.  She is talented at needle crafts, having completed a lovely quilt and other delicate projects; I prefer fast-paced sports such as tennis and basketball.  Technology to her is a necessary evil; to me it is an endlessly fascinating milieu to be pursued zealously.  She is a coffeeholic, like our mother and grandmother; pour me an ice-cold Coca-Cola, and life couldn’t be better.

Between the extremes of our kindred appearance and vastly different personal tastes stretches more than a half-century of love, encouragement, faith, and support.  I have always admired her more than anyone I have ever known.

Thankful for College Application Season???

Building on a college campus in Indiana

Oh, The Places You’ll Apply

(with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Congratulations!!

Your senior year has arrived.

Through three years of high school

You have struggled and survived.

Now you’re applying to college,

It’s a big job, we know.

And YOU are the one

Who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll visit several campuses, look them over with care.

About some you will say, “I’m not going there!”

You have a head full of dreams and a style that’s way cool,

But your parents make you choose at least one in-state school.

You can name several colleges

You really want to attend,

Although you don’t know the way

To Ann Arbor or South Bend.

You’ll be on your way

As soon as you apply to UNC—

To which some will add a letter,

Like A,  W, or  G.

You will work at top speed

To meet every deadline.

No way will you be late

With that application to Pepperdine.

You won’t lag behind,

Because you have the will

To complete the applications,

Including the one for McGill.

There will be many a late night

With long essays to rewrite.

You’ll persevere in putting words down

If you really want to get into Georgetown.

And you may get confused

As you continue working madly

You mean I can’t use CFNC

To apply to the Naval Academy?

Then you may need to regroup

By thinking “alphabet soup.”

VCU, UVA, SMU, MIT

One of them must be the right school for me.

Now you have written your final essay

And hit the send key one last time.

You have paid the application fees

And spent your last dime.

Congratulations again; now you must sit and wait

For the admission committee to determine your fate.

You have taken the right steps,

You have followed every rule.

Now you’re starting to wonder,

Could I just stay in high school?

The Other Orange Orb

Let hoops season begin!
Let hoops season begin!

Every year as the calendar turns to October and fall creeps over the landscape, pumpkins appear en masse.  Farmers markets, nurseries, and grocery stores display them in all shapes and sizes that are perfect for carving or simply decorating the front porch.  Even my church gets into the act by holding an annual pumpkin sale throughout October.

I like pumpkins.  They are pretty, fun to carve, and produce one of my favorite pies.  I help unload the huge shipments that duly arrive at church twice in October and readily work my shift in the pumpkin patch.  And I never, ever, turn down pumpkin pie.  Still, when October arrives, my mind focuses not on pumpkins, but on that other orange orb.

Basketball.

Sweet memories of racing up and down the old wooden court of my high school gym executing a perfect fast break; the beautiful sound of the ball swishing through the net following a perfectly arched free throw; an exquisitely angled bounce pass leading to a backdoor layup; the peculiar combination of smells unique to a basketball arena—-leather, popcorn, and sweat.  All are burned into my memory after years as a competitor and even more as a fan.  These images, sounds, and smells surface like magic, unbidden, every year when the leaves begin to change.  They are always there, hovering on the edge of my mind, enduring memories of a sport I love and the real reason basketball is first in my heart.

Pumpkins last one season; basketball is forever.