It was a beautiful day. A cloudless sky and the temperature was forecasted to reach a high of 75. The sun was shining and there was a very slight but refreshingly cool breeze wafting its way through the courts. The day had all the makings of some sort of epic tennis drama.
Pam and her partner, Tracy, both in their late 50’s, were fit and stylishly dressed. Fierce competitors, both of them. They walked up to the picnic table where the visiting team had set up camp.
“Is your line 1 doubles team ready to play?” Pam asked the group.
“Yes!” Answered the lady running up to the table. Pleasant looking and seemingly another mom-type, she was probably nearing the end of her 50’s and sported a knee brace and tennis elbow band. “Sorry, we're late! My daughter, is in the car talking to her son’s preschool. But we can head to the court. She’ll just be a minute.”
As the 3 of them walked to court #1 they traded introductions. All ladies instantly found a familiar rapport, talking and laughing like long-time friends as they found they were all in the same stage of life. Empty-nesters and veterans of multi-child households, all survived the rollercoaster ride of the typical ups and downs requisite to every human family situation. And each lady was admittedly happy that her children were out of the house and off practicing the skills of caring and responsible human beings their parents instilled in them. As they smiled in agreement, they were convinced it was going to be a fun and friendly tennis match.
(Yes, all of that information was actually shared by the time they’d gotten to the court, unpacked their racquets and opened the can of balls. Approximately 3 minutes. My husband is still amazed after 22 years, just how much women can:
B) Share with total strangers.)
Her daughter entered the court and was dressed in matching pink and white as her mom. Clearly in her late 20’s to early 30’s, the home team was told that she had 2 little kids but still made time on Thursdays to play ALTA tennis with her mom. How sweet is that?
“Ready?” she asked as she handed her mom a wristband.
“Oh thanks!” her mother responded. "What would I do without you?” taking the wristband. "We were just about to warm-up.” she added.
Surprised, her daughter replied, “What?! I thought you would’ve already done that. I don’t need to warm-up but guess I’ll do it if you all need to.” She begrudgingly offered.
Funny, how sometimes you can instantly tell the overall personality of someone just within a few seconds of meeting them. Her daughter's attitude rubbed Pam and Tracy the wrong way and they were not at all impressed with her any more. They realized that while the apple may be partnered with her tree….she did not only fall far, far from it…she also took several bounces once hitting the ground and rolled to a neighboring orchard.
As the tennis match progressed, it was revealed that her daughter had actually played tennis in college. It really didn’t have to be stated because it was more than evident in her style of play. She’d had training and many years of it. This is the kind of thing you bump into playing ALTA tennis. The intention of the league is to promote recreational tennis between neighbors and neighborhoods. So, in the end, each team is assigned a ranking as a whole based on their past record. There is no ranking of individual players.
That said, it was perfectly fine for her, a past D2 collegiate tennis player, to partner with her mom on her ALTA B2 team. (Roughly, USTA 3.5 equivalent.) Her attitude and the fact that she was a former college athlete, made Pam and Tracy all the more determined to win.
It was a competitive match. The skill level difference between mother and daughter was pretty obvious even losing all of mom's service games in a very tight but victorious first set. During the second set and on the brink of splitting sets, the home team’s strategy quickly became about endurance and testing just how many balls the mom could return during a rally. Then all of a sudden they were headed into a 3rd and deciding set.
A clearly agitated daughter, texted furiously during their break at the bench. Without a word to her opponents, threw her phone back into her bag and corralled her mom to the baseline deep in strategy mode. For the first 3 games and with a score of 2-1, Pam and Tracy were holding strong. Now it was the mom's serve, a real chance for the home team to break away. But then, her daughter positioned herself at the center of the net in crouching tiger position. Which way was she going to go after the serve? Pam and Tracy knew she was quick enough to get to anything from there. Shaken, they awarded mom her first service win of the match and subsequently handed over a serve of their own.
At 4-3 in favor of the mother/daughter team, they had a quick strategy session mid-court and almost immediately, the daughter served an ace to start the game. Just as swiftly, her next serve, forced an error and they were suddenly up 30-0 in the game. Just as Pam prepared herself to return what she feared might be another ace, she stood erect and held up her hand. The daughter, just about to begin her service motion, stopped and watched as Pam and Tracy conversed among themselves.
“Is something wrong?” she asked.
“Are you sure it's your turn to serve?" Pam questioned back. "We are remembering that you have been serving from this side of the court.”
“No.” Challenged the daughter. “This is my side.”
“Really?!” Tracy chimed in and asked the mom. “Haven’t you been serving from that side?”
Before she could muster up an answer, her daughter came charging to her rescue. Back and forth they went. This side, that side, her serve, your serve, my serve. They could tell that by the hand gestures and defensive body language that their argument had made its way to the other side of the fence where the teams were discussing exactly the same thing. Unable to use their opinion in the controversy, the players tried to find an agreement but neither side was budging. Then the word “cheater” came out. And the mom was posed the question a 2nd time, “Haven’t you been serving from that side?” With her daughter caught in between breaths, mom was able to squeak out a mouse-like response, “I don’t remember.”
Wow. Safe play.
Without another word, Pam and Tracy understood that they were right but they would not win the argument. They were pitted against an impenetrable family bond.
Mom's demeanor had them thinking that she knew her kid was serving from the wrong side, but had to say something which would not vilify her daughter. So, she opted to place her response right down the middle.
Try as they did, Pam and Tracy hunkered down as best they could to put the argument behind them and win the last set. But instead, they fell to the mother/daughter team all too quickly. They shook hands at the net and just as the daughter turned away, her mom mouthed to Pam and Tracy, “I’m sorry.” Convincing the home team that the daughter had actually cheated and her mom let her get away with it.
So then, is the idiom correct? Did this apple, in fact, fall and nestle itself snuggly right next to the tree? Was mom just as dishonest as daughter? You know what they say, “Like mother, like daughter.” And then there's the other one about one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch.
Foiled by the mom and what they interpreted as her amiable decorum and by the seemingly doting daughter, Tracy and Pam decided right then and there, they would never again "judge a book by its cover".
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