|Back in the forties, street sports were a big thing in our Belleville neighborhood.
There had to be twenty some kids on our Carpenter Street block. We got sent out to play every day and team games were always the thing. Jackie and Sal were the captains. Well coordinated and enthusiastic, they ran the show.
Growing up, I was a chunky kid. Whatever the sport of the day, baseball, marbles, kick the can, ring-a-lerry-oh, I was the last kid picked for the team. Sort of the ďoh well booby prize.Ē Try as I did, I couldnít hit the ball, missed the can and the marble, and didnít run fast enough. Somehow, I made it through childhood without being totally sports ostracized. They laughed at my attempts, so I did too.
My concerned, loving parents sent me for dancing and piano lessons. Today, I can still do the ďEastside, WestsideĒ number. Not particularly gracefully, but I can do it. The Irish Jig is one of my all time favorites, but my shins canít take the bruises from those steps where you throw your foot up and around the other leg anymore. Keeping my arms straight at my sides is still a snap. Always in the back row at the recitals, I was a good smiler but definitely not Rockette material. I wasnít much better at piano. These days ďI Love Coffee, I Love TeaĒ is my total repertoire. Donít even ask about my singing ability. Back row alto in the school choir should give you a good clue.
At the pool, in spite of swimming lessons, I never mastered the breathing part. Breathe in, face in the water, breathe out. My brain always got it mixed up. Lungs full of water, I wasnít swim team material. To this day, my best is the Esther Williams side stroke, face up and out of the water, always smiling, moving along smoothly until the realization I canít touch bottom sets in with panic close behind. The four foot clubhouse pool was made for swimmers of my capabilities. Forget trying the ocean.
In high school, I knew better than to go out for sports. My lack of ability along with lack of coordination turned into humor as compensation. I did manage to be the last kid picked for the girls gym team, started to slim out, but never could get my bottom to cooperate with my top doing those maneuvers on the bars and the rings. They tolerated me. Then a very sympathetic teacher picked me for the girls drill team. This was easy, non-competitive, and I could march and count the steps without moving my lips. Finally, I felt the thrill of contributing to a team.
In college, mastering Spanish grammar was hard enough. Forget sports. My sorority picked me for the Daisy chain. We wore daisy crowns that we carefully wove together, white flowing gowns, joined hands, smiled a lot and circled the May pole. I was pretty good at that.
At work, they formed a golf group. As a manager, I was expected to join. Not looking forward to displaying my lack of eye/hand coordination, once again, I was the last of the foursome picked. Humor worked for awhile, but then I noticed my peer group was all out there swinging away before I arrived. Apparently, they had picked their foursomes secretly at work and scheduled an earlier time to meet. I hung in there for awhile; after all I had just spent a small fortune on all the gear, but waiting to go out on the course ended up waiting till they all came back and having a beer in the clubhouse bar. Realizing I wasnít foursome material, I sold the shiny, barely used gear in a garage sale. I donít really like beer all that much anyway.
It didnít bother me a lot when I failed tennis lessons on vacation at Club Med. The cocktail hour was much more fun. Now a days I watch the tennis group slamming balls from my prime Horizons patio spot (I love that my upstairs neighbor has 911 programmed into his phone in case anyone falls), cheer on the bocce ball group, admire the golf swingers, and now and then, sneak over to the gym to walk on the treadmill alone in case my uncoordinated feet get mixed up.
Itís not so bad being the last kid picked. You compensate, develop an area that fits your capabilities. Like, I can type with all ten fingers, still take shorthand, do easy puzzles, color in the lines, circle all the words in the word maze, maneuver my way around the computer (well, sort of) and Iím still laughing at my short comings. Today, if I was that little chunky kid, Iíd probably be in therapy. The best is, I havenít passed the klutz gene along to my kids and grandkids. However, they all got my sing-off-key gene.
Guess I just want to tell you that if youíve ever felt inadequate in some area, just remember, everyone is good at something. Just have to find it. In the meantime, never give up and keep smiling!
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