Of Surviving Summer Sports
Photograph: Bob Capazzo
It’s summer—and time for fun in the sun. Fun? Most of the time, I guess, having never won any gold medals in the athletic arena. I did pretty well swimming, though. Diving, too, as long as it was backwards so I couldn’t see the water. At Camp Wabasso-with-its-verdant-hillsides, I did a whole lot better hitting a bull’s eye with a bow and arrow than I would do later hitting a clay pigeon with a shotgun. And I could always paddle my own canoe. Literally. But I have gotten a lot of encouragement from my husband. In fact, in his honor, I plan to write a book someday entitled I Married A Jock.
Sailing: On our honeymoon fifty-three years ago in the British Virgins, Jack chartered a sailboat and timed me as I ran laps around the deck (my bare feet nimbly avoiding the cleats) so I would get my sea legs. Later in Bermuda, he put me at the helm of a Sunfish in Great Sound and (pre-arranged with Mary Stuart and Bill Crane) proceeded to somehow slide off my boat onto theirs—leaving me to master the art of the solo sail. Except that a large ferryboat loaded with sightseers was bearing down on me, so I headed for shore. I remembered to pull up the centerboard but forgot to release the sheet to let the sail go forward, so we (the boat and I) plowed up full tilt onto the sand at Cambridge Beaches, scattering a surprised horde of middle-aged ladies taking in the sun.
Waterskiing: My one and only attempt was on vacation with Mary Alice and Peter Roome in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Holding the towrope, I sat on the edge of the dock and slid into the waist deep water, but the back of my bathing suit got hooked on a nail and there I hung laughing hysterically—my skis up under the dock in back and me face down, paddling frantically with my hands in front to keep from drowning in Lake Winnipesaukee. I did finally get up on those skis, but in a rare flash of confidence, tried to crisscross the wake, wiped out and never got up again.
Golf: I like golf. I play it exactly once a year for exactly one week (I married a sailor, don’t forget)—eighteen holes every morning on our family vacation at the Basin Harbor Club in Vermont. Once my daughter-in-love Elena Moffly and I were playing as a twosome just ahead of our husbands. It was such a hot sticky day that when I bent over to get my ball out of the cup on the seventh green, my slacks split right up the back. Fortunately, in my bag I had a windbreaker that I could tie around my waist. Observing from afar, Jack turned to Jonathan and said: “Well, there goes your mother—overdressed again!” There ain’t no justice.
Hiking: We took the kids out West when they were teenagers, and I had bought a pair of expensive hiking boots that Jack said I could also use for riding. (Horses, incidentally, I much prefer on a racetrack rather than under me, ever since Smokey bit me in my ten-year-old butt on my first day at camp.) I thought I’d break them in wearing them around the house, but it turned out they broke me in. Standing over the ironing board, it felt like my back was being thrown out of line. “Those boots are too good, too stiff,” observed a wise athletic friend. So I went over to Ernie’s in Riverside and bought some for half the price and staggered around the Rockies in relative comfort.
Fly-fishing: A one shot deal. In Scotland with a gillie and, of course, Jack. I wore tall rubber waders this time and we stood at the edge of a private pond well stocked with big fat trout. I couldn’t miss, right? Wrong. Every time I cast, my line would get hooked on the wire fence behind me. Oh, well. Try everything once, my mother always told me. Then you’ll know what you really like. Not fly-fishing.
Biking: During one Block Island Race Week, the ladies rented bikes to explore the island. Pedaling as hard as I could—I’ve never mastered more than three gears—we headed up a long long hill to the beekeeper’s house. I was feeling very smug indeed when I looked behind and noticed my friend Nancy Vaughn really struggling to keep up with us. Nancy, who walked all over Riverside every day for fun. Nancy, who could ski down any mountain. But my smugitude was short lived. I would soon learn that she had a flat tire.
Tennis: I always did like tennis. Was pretty good at it, too, until my knee started acting up. But after once rushing off to a game in Binney Park without proper time to dress on a scorcher of a day, I can offer this bit of advice: Never play tennis in a panty-girdle. It gets too itchy.