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I May Have Been Only Three, But I was Swingin'!

Monday, June 21, 2010

I think the first time I became aware of what my body could and can do, I was probably about three or so. I was in a high chair. I had finished all of the cereal but not the milk so my mother poured the milk into a plastic cup. There were, naturally, little pieces of cereal floating around in there. This sufficiently bothered me that I threw the cup across the kitchen.

And so began my twin love affairs, with food issues and body issues.

Then there were my school years. I was not a heavy child but I was also not particularly coordinated, either. I came from a family where you didn't play sports because that's what the tradespeople's children did and we (my brother and I) were going to college so we were told that we didn't need such things.

As a result, and despite playing with friends when I was a child, I had a basic grasp of the rules of baseball and I knew that for basketball you were supposed to get the ball into the hoop and that about covered it. I recall going to a Flyers game with my family when I was 9 (we lived just outside of Philly then) and it was way, way, way up in the old Spectrum and when it was my turn with the binoculars I didn't follow the puck around and instead I just tried to pick out cute guys, either on the ice or in the stands.

As a result -- and our moving to Long Island right before I started 6th grade didn't help one iota -- I was always, and I mean ALWAYS chosen last for sports. This was the 60s and 70s, it was the era of "make the best athletes AKA gym teachers' pets the captains and let them choose the teams so that they can inevitably select all their friends first and then look the rest of us over like pieces of meat". See: Janis Ian.

There was but one exception to this pattern. I was friends with a girl named Crystal who was kind of a tough girl. I'm not so sure why we were pals; we did not go to each others' homes, but we were friendly in a nodding, hey, how ya' doin' kind of way. I was a Drama Club and International Club girl, on the Honor Society. This was an era where girls were only just beginning to be able to take shop. Crystal was, like I said, kind of tough.

We had a girls' gym class together, and it was divided into quarters. It was the Spring quarter of our Senior Year. I had been accepted to more than one college and had made my choice. Crystal, I think, was headed for a community college and probably out to work. But it was Spring quarter, and I digress. The unit was basketball, and we all knew the Janis Ian song, "At Seventeen". Well, I was sixteen but hey, close enough. The gym teacher decided on a round robin tournament. We'd have a half a dozen teams and no subs. We'd just play each other; team 1 would play team 6, then they'd play team 5 or whatever.

For some reason, Crystal the tough girl was chosen to be a captain. I suppose the gym teacher ran out of pets. Girls were being picked. I was, as per usual, waiting with the leavings. Fourth round out of five. Crystal scanned the remainders and found me. And, she picked me!

I could scarcely believe it. I was not the last one chosen.

Now, we did not win a single game, I'll have you know. When it came down to the final week of the unit, even if we had won every single game, we'd've still been dead last. But we didn't care. We had fun. We joked around easily. We enjoyed each others' company. Yes, we played. We did get a workout in and we did try to win. But getting good at it was not in our plans. We were not there to do anything spectacular on the court.

I wish I could tell you that I had kept up with Crystal, but I didn't. We went our separate ways although we have reconnected on Facebook. I don't think she remembers quite what she did for me and I have not reminded her. I don't want to remind her -- I'm not quite sure why. *I* know what she did. And that's all that matters, I feel. It all happened, by the way, over 30 years ago.

So, you.

While you are going along in your struggles, and it seems like things are so hard, and the deck is stacked against you, look around at the remainders, and look beyond the trappings and the facades. Help others like they have helped you, because underneath the scratched exterior, I know that you will find a beautiful crystal.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Very nice.

    Reminds me of the time we were divided into pairs for indoor badminton in junior high. I was not an athlete in school, either. But I'd swung a badminton racket a few times. I was paired with a southeast Asian girl who had recently immigrated, and we were definitely not a favored team. That team was the skinny blond girls who were (like you said) the gym teachers' pets.

    I don't even remember this girl's name. She had so little English that we could barely communicate. But you know what? She knew her way around a racket and birdie. She'd done this before. She was Good, while I was barely adequate. But it was enough. We SMASHED the teachers' pets. And we enjoyed it. We sent that shuttlecock into them so fast they were jumping out of the way, not even trying to return it.

    And I remember the genuine smiles my partner and I shared after each match. Because in some small way, we had finally WON. And on THEIR turf. I don't believe the gym teachers ever brought out the badminton equipment again. But it was a good moment. A rare one.
    3695 days ago
    Marvelous story. Thanks for this reminder that we all have a Crystal inside.

    I love, love, love Joni Mitchell's version of the I-may-have-been-only-three-but-I-wa
    s-swingin' song (is it entitled Twisted?). My analyst told me...

    Have a wonderful day. xo! -M
    3696 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4749243
    I remember (and recently saw in person) Janis Ian--loved her stuff in 1967 and still do. I'm a bit older than you and remember well the days before Title 9 when our gym teacher tried to help us start to learn to play tennis. We got out to the courts and the boys team was playing. Their coach told our teacher that she couldn't have the courts! The end. No contest. My sister, 8 years younger, got to play basketball and had actual teams that played after school. Same school. Same teachers. I love the law--when it is good law and is enforced. : )

    Nice blog. Well done.
    3696 days ago
    3697 days ago
  • no profile photo CD3248497
    I hope to meet my crystal one day!!
    3697 days ago
    Great blog and since you have reconnected with Crystal, you should let her know what she did for you all those years ago.
    3698 days ago
    You should tell Crystal what an effect she had on you. I bet she would love to know it.
    It is never fun to be picked last.
    3698 days ago
    what a beautiful ending to a nice blog.

    3698 days ago
  • 250STRONG
    Just goes to show that you never know the impact you will have on someone's life. :)
    3698 days ago
    I was always one of the last to be picked for a team, especially in high school. I was rather scrawny and not terribly interested in sports anyway, so it didn't matter all that much to me.

    I wish I had a "crystal" story to tell, but alas, no. I DID reconnect with 2 gals on Facebook who bullied me in high school. I know that sounds odd, but I forgive them. And one of them remembers a lot of great stories (she didn't bully me 24/7; we were actually friends), which makes the reconnecting worth it!

    Great blog post!!!
    3698 days ago
    It is so amazing that despite the negatives we may have experienced as a child, we still remember the shining positives that stick with us always... I still remember those precious people. I always loved a bible verse at Proverbs 17:17 - "A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress." It is wonderful for someone to make us feel needed right when we need them the most... and when your standing in a gym line-up... it is definitely needed... :)

    3698 days ago
    I was often picked last too. i had a friend Crista, oddly enough, who would often be captain, and she would pick me first, purely out of friendship... not ability. My friend Carrie would do the same, but Crista would grab my hand during laps (the first 10 girls in got something, but I don't remember what-maybe excused out of laps the next day) and she would run pulling me behind her. Ahh... the only time I was fast was when I was dragged along by Crista.

    i never knew that sports were a tradesmen thing. Don't colleges now want well rounded people? I have been told that I need to find a sport for my kids, if I want to get them into a good college. Then again, back in the 70's everyone smoked and that was okay.

    I am glad you reconnected with your friend on Facebook. My Crista found me on Classmates.
    3698 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/21/2010 9:32:15 AM
    Great blog! I was always last to be picked, too. We played cricket at my school, and we had the future captain of the England women's team and pioneer of women's cricket, Rachel Heyhoe-Flint. I used to think it was a good chance to sit in the long grass and look at the sky and the buttercups. I wasn't bad at tennis, though. I hated gym, and in fact, school in general although I know I was fortunate to be there.
    I had one or two beautiful crystals that I still keep in touch with. One in particular was a total rebel from whom I learnt a lot!

    3698 days ago
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