Ping-Pong (because it certainly wasn’t table tennis)
Entertaining myself is not a problem. I am seldom bored. I can always find things to do, sometimes revisiting childhood games or teenage activities for fun. One day I reached into my memory banks to recall that I used to play Wii. Wii bowling was a favorite.
I have a long history of regular bowling. My mom was a member of a lady’s afternoon bowling league. My dad’s business sponsored a championship men’s bowling team. Some softball teammates bowled in the offseason. I met Charlie after he had completed a night of league bowling. I took bowling in High School and College for PE. When I was young, we didn’t watch football after Thanksgiving dinner. The entire family went bowling.
All of this was “real” bowling. It consisted of putting on slippery and sometimes smelly rental shoes, choosing a heavy colored ball from a rack, and throwing it down a highly polished wooden lane in order to knock down curvy white posts.
My form of bowling on the Wii had me coordinating my thumb on button A and my first finger on button B, swinging my arm back and bringing it forward, releasing B at just the precise moment to activate the virtual ball down the virtual lane towards the virtual pins. It sounds challenging and that made me wanted to play Wii again. So I rescued “my” Wii from my son Loren’s dusty shelf, borrowed the missing games from friends so I could bowl, box, hit baseballs and tennis balls Wii style.
Charlie and I found several unusual items when cleaning out my parents’ house. (They didn’t have a Wii, but I think they would have liked it.) Some items were very small, such as a halibut’s eardrums and others were quite large such as a ski box, a steamer trunk and a Ping-Pong table. The ski box was built to the precise dimensions of our pickup camper’s floor. We were instructed to carefully organize our skis and poles in this box because if done properly there was just enough space for all the family members’ skis with room for the skis of one friend. With the lid fitted, the ski box now became the floor of the camper. This box was made of beautiful clear pine and in its second life was used to make shelves in our kids’ bedrooms. The old trunk had become a receptacle for pajamas and nightgowns. I threw away these ancient items to make room for our many board games. The home-made ping pong table has a more colorful history and is the subject of the rest of this writing.
The tabletop was made of heavy pine, of the same quality as the ski box. It had a frame built so it could fit on top of another table or be supported by sawhorses. It was hinged in the middle for storage in the basement, but I never saw it folded. It was actually used as a ping pong table but also had been pressed into service for painting small objects, building science fair projects, folding laundry and rarely, as the foundation for model trains.
Due to the COVID-19 homestay, I thought about what Charlie and I could do together that was more active than me sitting and writing while he watched documentaries. In the same way I remembered bowling, ping-pong came to mind. I asked him if we still had the old ping-pong table. He went out by the barn somewhere and came back with it. He put it up on saw horses and balanced it the best he could with recycled fence pickets from the old Funland playground. While wiping the dirty table I could see the top was uneven, warped. I looked for the paddles and balls in the garage closet labeled “sports” supplies. Charlie searched through our huge storage container. With neither of us being able to locate the net, paddles or balls Charlie ventured to Bi-Mart. He found a $3 ping pong set with everything we needed and he wisely purchased extra balls.
Last night we finally tried it out. Just after dinner, the Hermiston wind rescinded and we donned jackets and headed to the back patio. It took two of us to set the net up. We grabbed the paddles and Charlie served first. The ball came towards me, but on the hop, it hit an uneven spot in the table and went directly sideways, out onto the lawn and hit the dog. Charlie served again and was more successful. We got a couple of rallies going before the wind came back. Between the wind, and the uneven table, our serves and returns grew less accurate. The dog was hit several more times before she finally relocated herself to the side yard. The lawn covered with ping pong balls looked like the city-sponsored Easter egg hunt with its several thousand eggs spread across the soccer field.
The sight of this tickled my funny bone, and I doubled over with laughter. My hysterical laughing made Charlie laugh. The wind increased. It got colder. We laughed more. Now too cold to play, we went on our ping-pong ball easter egg hunt, giggling over the funny places some of the ping pong balls had become lodged.
It was enough self-inflicted entertainment for us two old folks. The leaning, reaching and thinking about holding the paddle straight, and all that laughing, had worn us out. Charlie went right to bed and I fell asleep on the couch, only to wake stiff and sore.
Whoever knew that advanced conditioning would be needed to play “ping-pong”.
I can’t wait for the wind to stop so we can try again. Until then I think we will break out the cards and play “kings in the corner” at our kitchen table.