Serena Williams and I: The French Open or A Wedding Gig

Wow, Serena, sister! You are making us all look bad with your magnificence.

Not that I would ever dare compare myself to you; first of all, I don’t play tennis. Well, I used to play in the city, actually, and I really liked it. My husband got me lessons at the tennis club downtown and we’d play when he got home from work. It was super fun, except…we’re both super competitive. And he thought it was hilarious to serve the ball really, really hard and I would just stand and watch it whizz by, ducking so I didn’t get my face smashed in. This is what being married to a jock is like, when you’re not a jock yourself.

Just like music really defines me and formed me, athletics defined and formed my husband. He was a three-sport Varsity athlete in high school and then went on to play football in college, on a full scholarship no less. He still plays basketball, runs, and skis and does all sorts of other physical activities to the hilt, whenever he gets a chance.

On that long-ago tennis court, I did what is now known as a mic-drop, except I did it with my tennis racket. After his fourth (but who’s counting?) serve whizzed past me and he belly laughed, I lifted my racquet up, shoulder height, and let it drop. Then I took off, jogging towards the lakefront, with him shouting, “Wait! Come back! I was only kidding! I won’t do it again!”

Too little, too late, Mr. McEnroe. I had to run a couple of lakefront miles before I stopped wanting to kill him. I came home, sweaty but much less stabby, to a very apologetic man.

So what on earth could I, a non-jock, have in common with an athlete like Serena? Well, I had to play at a wedding in our parish today. It was just a gig; I didn’t know the bride or groom. But I am so sick! Just like Serena was today, playing the French Open.

Our house has been infected with a slow-moving, but horribly virulent plague that began when our resident Germ Monkey, Lucy, brought it home from her preschool. It’s awful because I totally know who Patient Zero was at her Montessori. But when I asked Lucy’s doctor if I could go over and pelt the little girl’s house with rocks and garbage, he said no, that they kinda frown on that behavior in the medical and educational community. Jeesh.

After Lucy, it snaked towards the boys and they went down the next week. And then, I got it. I am so grateful I made it through my last big concert of the season before succumbing, but there is no joy in parenting while sick: it’s just shouting things from the couch until your spouse comes home and can relieve you. I started my antibiotics two days ago, almost kissing the pharmacist, I was so happy to get them.

I have this horrible cough, so bad that it caused my husband to choose Sofa City over lying awake listening to me cough for another endless night. As he was gathering his pillows and wishing me goodnight, I couldn’t help but think of the opera La Bohème.

You know, in the Final Act?  When Mimi is dying of Consumption and can’t stop coughing? When Rodolfo holds her and recalls their first meeting and how they fell in love as he comforts her in his arms until her sad, sad demise?

Yeah, well, this was the exact opposite of that:

“I can’t catch what you have! We’ll fall apart and the children will eat us! One of us has to stay healthy around here. Are you going to use that extra pillow, or can I have it?”

I handed it to him and told him I hoped I was still alive to kiss him in the morning. I had a 50/50 chance of making it through the night, I told him.

The next day, when miraculously I survived, I was complaining (gently, hardly at all, barley a whimper) about having to go play this stupid, dumb wedding when I felt so sick, like such complete and utter crap—I MEAN, ahem, perhaps I should sub this gig out and go lie down with a cold compress on my forehead?

My husband looked at me and said, “Serena Williams just won the French Open today while she was sick with the flu.”

And then he just stood there, with “I think you can manage to play a wedding” hanging in a cartoon word bubble above his head. I heard it even though he didn’t technically speak it. What a jock thing to say.

Like, how can we even compare playing the French Open with playing a crappy wedding gig?? Fellow musicians, am I right?  It is SO much harder playing the violin than tennis when you have a church organist who doesn’t ever, ever give cues or tell you how many measures he’s arbitrarily adding to the hymn, so counting is totally useless. Or when, for kicks, sometimes he hands you a part that’s in a different key than the one he’s playing in and you don’t realize it until you start playing and it sounds AWFUL and then you have to transpose on the spot. Much harder than tennis, I tell you!

I mean, no, I’ve never played tennis past those level one classes, but that was EASY. Like, totally no big deal, just fun, except for when my Jock Husband was hitting the ball too hard, fast, right at me, on purpose. That part was kinda hard, I guess. Maybe that’s what Serena feels like? I dunno. Anyway, you are amazing, Serena! But you made me look like a wimp today and that, I do not appreciate.

I played the wedding, cough drops and tissues falling out of my case and I missed an entrance because see above and I didn’t even get a trophy afterwards.  But I did it: Consumption and all.

And now it’s over, so I’m going to go be Mimi and lie in bed, read a book and have my Rodolfo bring me hot tea with honey while saying “poor baby” over and over, on command. I hope Serena is somewhere in France, doing the same.


I look forward to hearing from you!


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