As I was going to let the dogs out this evening, I discovered a little girl’s hair ornament imitating a string of multicolored pearls with Hello Kitty decoration lying in the corner of the corridor between our and the neighboring apartment. It must have been the neighbor’s little daughter who lost it, so I picked it up and secured it on the wall right in front of their door so that they could see it first thing tomorrow morning.
Maybe she has already forgotten about it, or maybe she was complaining all evening how she lost it and how much she missed it, children get attached to things which you would never believe they could care for that much. Then when they grow up and search for some favorite special memory from the old days, it often happens that if they find it they end up being disappointed with it, because they remembered it as something extra beautiful or very extra special and charming, only to discover that that long sought charm vanished for good.
This hair ornament triggered one similar memory from my childhood – it was a sunny day and I was playing with a tennis ball on our terrace while my dad and my grandmother took care of me. You surely know how nasty tennis balls are when they bounce really high and mine was no exception – it hit the terrace ceiling and jumped all the way down into the terrace of the neighbors living at the ground floor. I stared in disbelief and some strange misery possessed me as I saw the old lady come into her terrace, take the ball, say something bad about how my intention was to throw things at her head after which she came back inside, slamming the door and shouting that I wouldn’t see that ball ever again. Ok, one simple tennis ball, that should be something easily replaceable, right? That wasn’t the case back then in my country, tennis had been the sport of the noble and rich and it only started having its first appearances in front of the massive audience with the success of few older sportsmen, Monica Seles being the most famous among them in the times when I was growing up. We had only that one tennis ball in the house, and I received it as a present, along with one of those ancient wooden heavy racquets I literally adored. First my grandma and then my dad went down there to ask for the ball and to explain that I was just a little child who surely didn’t mean any harm to anybody, but she insisted that this small ball could have meant the end of her days. I sadly pondered over my little loss for several days and I was promised to receive another ball soon, when the old lady for some reason changed her mind. She sad she felt pity for me, but that she was still suspicious that the dad or granny could drop down something much heavier and more dangerous on purpose… 🙂 I could have never imagined the two of them being capable of anything similar, but the neighbor trusted no one.
I was out of my mind with happiness when the ball returned and I never used it on the terrace ever again, scared that she could definitely not return it any more. Later I got or bought those nice three ball packs of all sorts of famous brands, there was even one period in which I very happily tried to play tennis almost every day and it made me contented even though I never had any sort of true talent for it, but I always remember that one particular ball from my childhood. On one of those little “training” sessions I was hitting balls right next to the court where a tennis coach held a proper class for some young couple, and I noticed that she had dozens and dozens of balls that she intended to leave behind and dispose of. I approached her and saw that all the balls had the “US open” print on them, so I asked her about them. She said that she coached some juniors who participated even in Grand slams and that these balls were definitely from New York – balls get replaced quite often during matches, especially because they “break” or simply soften from hard hits, so when the event ends they should all end up in waste, but coaches often collect them for the first beginners’ practices. The softer the ball is, the easier it gets to make it bounce over the net – you surely can’t get the precision out of those shots, but you can practice the technique. What I saw in those balls was primarily US open souvenirs, so I asked her if I could have some, knowing that it was highly improbable that I’ll even attend any Grand slam tennis match. She packed an entire bag of balls and handed it over to me, telling me that she really liked my determination and love for the game.
That bag is still in one corner of the living room, behind the door. There is an open space there left after the big wall closet occupied the place intended for it, so what was left served us for many years to keep there bulky memories of various sorts. I don’t know what happened to that first, precious ball. It could be easily there in that bag of Grand slam memories, balls hit maybe even by some old important players as well. If I find it, no matter how long it remained there temporarily forgotten, it will still carry the weight of the past times and bring back the memories of that afternoon and voices of those three people who are no longer among us. The neighbor passed away several years ago, my granny and my dad are together now at that far away cemetery out of the town.
The old lady wanted to destroy that yellow-greenish object, failing to see anything good or important in it. Yes it was just a ball, but that ball makes her as well live even today in my thoughts and in these lines. It also reminds me how much my granny and my dad cared for me and tried to make me happy by helping out to restore happiness in my life in any possible way.
I wish I could talk to them both, even just only one more time. I miss you guys so very much.