The Old Volleyball Net

Mom was a volleyball player. So was I.

At some point during my childhood, a couple of permanent wooden poles and a net made their way into the side yard between the farm house and the grain bins. I don't remember exactly when or why Mom and Dad put them there, but there they stood. I don't even know if they were regulation width. It didn't matter.

Each spring, when the weather was finally warm in Indiana, Mom and I would bust out the net that had been collecting dust in the garage all winter long and we'd play ball. Over the course of three warm seasons, we'd spend hours at the eastern end of that net (the western end was a little too close to a walnut tree for ankle comfort).

Bump. Set. Spike. It's hard to tell how many hits that multi-colored volleyball took over the years.

And oh if that net could talk, I'm sure she'd have some things to share. She heard some stuff. You see, Mom and I? We were never just playing ball--even if I didn't realize it at the time. High school is rough, y'all, and those hours of volleyball practice were the times when Mom and I could just talk. It was conversation, subtle and gentle life lessons, laughter, precious moments.

There was the one slightly less precious moment when I decided it would be funny to de-pants my mother after a shanked volleyball went skidding across the yard. She was none too pleased to be standing in her underpants in plain view of God, the neighbors and any passing motorists. In my nearly 35 years, I don't think I've ever seen someone move that fast again.

Sorry, Mom.

Pants or no pants, when I look back, I now realize the time at that net was priceless and safe. Common ground between mother and daughter.

I don't remember exactly when that net came down for the last time. Did we know it was our last foray onto the grass court at Stewart Farms? Eventually, those old wooden poles came out of the ground too (but the walnut tree still stands threatening ankles and delighting the hungry neighborhood squirrels).

Hours at the net gave way to calling cards and cordless telephone calls from my dorm at Hanover College. Free night and weekend calls on our cell phones from my apartment at Purdue. Sporadic weekend visits as I stepped out into the the professional world.

And while the volleyball court is gone, what never went away is the memories made or the lessons learned.

Neither Mom or I play any volleyball these days. Years of wear and tear on both of our bodies brought that to an end. Now we lunch and shop, our common ground womanhood and motherhood. She's still gently guiding me and teaching me life lessons.

Some things never change.

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