Monday, July 26, 2010

Mother at the Wicket

I grew up playing croquet. It was a serious family affair -- rules were not bent, even for the smallest child. The course increased in difficulty over the years, sometimes taking athletes through the oscillating sprinkler and other times forcing contestants to perfectly judge the slope of the driveway in order to remain in play. A summer dinner with friends simply was not complete until we had wielded those mallets and crowned a champion.

When Jamie and I got married, we acquired a croquet set of our own. We weren't quite as hardcore about the game, but it sure came in handy when my sister and I hosted tea parties on the lawn. We looked -- and felt -- very Victorian. I'm sure we made a charming spectacle.

Now our kids play around with the set. I get a kick out of watching Little Miss Avery Kate handle a mallet that's as tall as she is. (Do you remember that Brady Bunch episode where Carol is learning to golf? That's Avery. Hands twisted in the most awkward position around that stick.) The other day, she and Aidan set up a course and wound their way through the yard. I was hard pressed to hold my tongue every time they approached the wicket from the wrong side (an obvious penalty), but I did, and they had fun.

It reminded me of a poem I wrote a couple of years ago for Drew. He was holding a family writing competition (one of many over the years), in which contestants were to highlight any sport of their choice. I chose croquet.

Mother at the Wicket

The outlook wasn't brilliant
For your mom (age nine) that day.
She faced her parents, siblings and friends
For a match of lawn croquet.

Papa smacked his ball ahead
With agility and ease,
Then Noni aimed and fired with grace
Through the wicket near the trees.

Uncle Ron approached his ball
With confidence, and yet,
Through the sprinkler his ball did roll,
Leaving his legs quite wet.

Siblings John and Krissie approached
The driveway wicket next --
The fatal hole with pavement and slope
That left all athletes perplexed.

In spite of the odds, their balls soared through,
Propelled by Aunt Marlene's cheering,
While those who had yet to attempt the shot
Felt sure that their doom was nearing.

Your mother was not flustered by
The shot she had to make,
She simply sauntered to her mark
And called out, "Watch the stake!"

With careless ease her mallet struck
The golden yellow sphere,
She propped her hand upon her hip
And grinned from ear to ear.

Oh, somewhere in those childhood days
Were moments of victory sweet.
But this day was not one of them --
That ball rolled down the street.

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