The house in which I grew up bumped up against an elementary school. It was perfect because our backyard extended into the playground. My friends and I could run over and play on the swings or in the sandbox and Mom could still see us from the house. We spent many summer days hanging from the parallel bars and playing tag in the vast field. It was a child’s dream.
Each summer Grandma and Grandpa K drove from Florida to Illinois to visit us (with a stop in Ohio to see my cousins). They packed their golf clubs in the trunk alongside their suitcases. Grandma and Grandpa loved to golf, as did Dad so their visit was a good excuse for him to get out on the course. I’d never been that great at golf, despite the summer we took lessons as a family. (The lessons were held in the high school’s wrestling room that constantly smelled of sweat. It was hard to concentrate when breathing in that odor for an hour.) Even with putt-putt, my ball somehow always ended up in the water trap.*
One particular summer evening with Grandma stands out in my mind. Grandpa and Dad were in the living room watching TV while Mom was in the kitchen preparing dinner. From the window Mom and I could see Grandma practicing her swing. She stood in our backyard and faced the school’s wide field. She hit a few balls into the field and then collected them. Mom gently suggested that I keep Grandma company until dinner was ready.
When I got outside, I watched Grandma swing a few times. She then handed me the club and urged me to hit a ball. I took the club in my hand and tried to remember the stance: head down, knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-length apart, arms straight, eye on the ball. I swung the club back and brought it back down and made contact with the ball. It flew…just a couple of feet.**
Grandma suggested that I keep hitting the ball and within a few minutes, and after several, several strokes, we were at the far edge of the school field. “Let’s hit our way back to the house,” Grandma said and I agreed. I could certainly use the practice. I placed the club by my ball, bent my head and knees, kept my arm straight. “Try swinging with your hips,” Grandma offered. With that bit of advice, I focused on the movement of my hips as I tried to let memory take over the rest. I pulled the club behind me and then swung it back down. The club hit the ball and it sailed high into the air.
While I was celebrating like any child would (jumping up and down and screaming with delight), Grandma covered her eyes. “Did it hit a window?” she asked. I hadn’t really paid attention to where it went; as soon as I saw it fly, I celebrated. We rushed back to the house and scoured the back yard (after Grandma checked all the windows, which were still intact) but we found no ball. We didn’t know where it went. It wasn’t until after dinner that Grandma finally found it. The ball was in the front yard. I’d hit the ball over the roof.
*Nothing has changed to this day – the ball still makes its way into the water traps, though a little less frequently than it used to.
**For sound effects, click this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ytCEuuW2_A&feature=related