less rules, more play.

July 5, 2023

My latest spin around the sun has officially been marked with chocolate cake and cousins, old friends and various takes on the Spaghett. We’ve had swims in the Sound and a swim in a pool, but no swims in our very own inflatable kiddie pool which seems to be traversing the country by carrier pigeon.

On the day we arrived to my parents’ in Connecticut, we set up an old badminton net in the backyard. My dad fixed one broken pole with a length of sawed-off broom handle and the other pole is threatening to snap too, so we’ll soon have another opportunity to put our Yankee thrift to good use and pat ourselves on the back for our pragmatic genius. We could only find one birdie, rubber cap not included, so my dad bought a set at the local hardware store. Procured: new birdies and a new dehumidifier from one quick visit to a small-town shop. “Not bad,” he’s told every member of the family and passing guest while keeping us apprised of the relative humidity level in the dirt basement.

After a fifth person caught their ankle on the badminton net’s faded red guy lines, I stripped lengths of a cotton rag into flags to alert the next cross-yard runner of the booby trap. The early success rate of the flags was only middling, so I decided to make a starched fabric bunting.

I scrounged some canvas scraps from my mom’s stash and interrupted her at her desk four times in the space of 20 minutes to ask for corn starch, bobbins, instructions on rethreading her machine, and how, pray tell, she functions with scissors that are so very dull!? I am beginning to suspect my children’s sudden need for attention the moment I sit down to work is an inherited feature. With any luck the bunting will put a festive damper on tripping hazards. With more luck, my mom and I won’t throw the 1964 Singer, or each other, through a window before that happens.

We play badminton without keeping score. Less rules, more play is our grammatically questionable mantra for getting through games without mortal wounds to body or spirit and I’ve decided it’s a pretty good mantra for getting through summer more generally. We’ve decided to take a page from Laura and starting next week have signed the big kids up for day camp in my hometown where the prices of summer childcare aren’t quite as eye-watering as they are in the city and where off-hours can be spent frolicking around the backyard, tripping over guy wires, and slurping on an all-signs-point-to-bottomless supply of popsicles. I’ll rely, as always, on my parents’ goodwill and stores of patience, to say nothing of the old sewing machine and ancient house they allow us to stretch past capacity.

In badminton and other things, may we all do our best to be good sports.

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