This will be my family’s first Christmas without mom. A weird feeling has inhabited me knowing there are no gifts to buy for her and not seeing her stocking shaped like a teddy bear hanging over the fireplace at my sister’s house. Certain Christmas songs have left me weepy when listening to them which never happened before. We’ve been combating that by telling stories about mom that make us smile. This is one of mine.
Mom loved tennis. She watched every tournament on TV, even the older, retired players who developed their own tour. She always wanted to go to one of the 4 majors. Three of them were ruled out because they were overseas in England, France and Australia and mom was afraid to fly. She once asked me if it was possible to get to Wimbledon by boat.
That left the last major of the year, the US Open in New York which is a convenient 3-hour train ride from where we live in Pennsylvania. Mom found a travel agency whose whole business was booking tennis tours. They get you tickets, hotel rooms and have a shuttle to take you to and from the tennis center in Queens. The last piece of the puzzle was someone to go with her because this was something mom would never do on her own.
It was 1998 and mom caught me at a time in my life when I had money in the bank, so I agreed to go with her. Our tickets got us assigned seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, but we could sit anywhere we wanted at any other court. One day we got to the Louis Armstrong Stadium early to sit in a courtside box to watch Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden and Cedric Pioline of France. It was a great match. It went 5 sets, and the quality of play was very high.
At some point during one of the change-overs where the players change sides, Bjorkman was directly in front of us facing the other way. Mom leaned into me and said, “You know, Jonas has a really cute butt.”
Now, understand . . . I know . . . I mean, I get . . .
Look, I know she had every right to admire Jonas Bjorkman’s backside. It’s just not what I expected my 70-year-old mother to say to me. I believe I responded “Ooooookay,” which made her laugh. Then she doubled down.
“I know it’s a silly thing to say, but he does have a really nice butt.”
So, I looked for myself.
“Yeah, ok,’ I said to mom. “You’re right. He does have a nice butt.”
This made her laugh again.