"My body is like a hollow reed. Troubles blow through me like the wind".™Balki Bartokomous
Growing up, my sons were not big TV watchers, but every now and then we enjoyed a sitcom together. Perfect Strangers was one of these shows that we laughed about long after it was over, even now more than a decade later. Balki Bartokomous had hilarious catchphrases that we repeated to make a point or just randomly.
The boys played many different sports but settled on tennis in high school. They were on the JV and varsity teams and played against different high schools in the area. I, of course, was at every single one of these matches. They were after school and often ended close to dinner time. I had the family's dinner cooked, my hat and sunglasses on and ready to cheer. I volunteered to drive, bring bagels and juice, or whatever else was needed. I enjoyed chatting with the other parents too, and naturally I wanted my boys to win!
There was a problem, however. Tennis is not a "cheerleading" sport. Tennis spectators sit or stand politely, don't make a sound and every now and then do a little "royal" clapping. This was not football. Parents did not coach from the sidelines, did not fight, just waved perhaps once or twice. This was going to be very difficult for me. Sure enough, trouble was ahead.
The match was at our high school that afternoon, behind my backyard, right past the baseball field. I was late getting there and found Mike struggling a bit in his game. Being my son's mother, I knew he was losing focus because he was behind. I waited for that comeback but it wasn't happening.
It started with guilt. I should not have been late! I was sure he would not have fallen behind if his mother was there from the start. Then motherly responsibility set in. I had to do something. I had to find a way to get Mike's attention and tell him to relax and focus.
I walked around the court to his side, but now he couldn't see me and I wasn't supposed to speak. I walked back to the other side, facing him, waved gently; that didn't work; then I waved a little more frantically. Mike looked at me, I winked and mouthed words like, you have to relax hokiss, just breathe, focus, you can do this, you have this next one. He winked back and looked away. Obviously, he wasn't good at lipreading.
The need to reassure, support and encourage him was just too much, it was like a pressure cooker inside me. I thought if I used a cryptic message, others wouldn't understand and I could get away with it. At worst, they'd think I've lost my mind. So I started softly at first: I'm a hollow reed. I'm a hollow reed. I'm a hollow reed. I had no success with that. Mike just could not hear me. I raised my voice gradually. Hollow Reed. Hollow Reed. It was shorter, more to the point. This time some people looked, the opponent looked. If Mike heard me, he pretended he didn't know me. This was not working. I had no choice at all.
HOLLOW REED! HOLLOW REED! HOLLOW REED!
Then I walked around to a new spot, with the strategy to confuse people as to where these words were coming from. I was getting ready to repeat it when I felt someone tapping my shoulder. It was Mike's coach. He said, "Mike says maybe you should go home now" and he left.
And so I walked home. I don't remember if Mike was upset with me or not, but I do remember that he won that match and I take full credit for it.