For you, today, a fable. A ping pong fable and the moral is for you to explain to me.
I begin . . .
In late July we realized we would be moving. We knew our kids would be devastated. Though we are against bribery from a moral standpoint, we knew we would be offering a bribe. We would work to sugar up the deal until they realized that the move was good for them. (You know you'd do it, too.) (:
Could we find a house with a pool? That would be grand. No, we couldn't find one.
Would we move to a house with the coolest basement on the planet? No, we moved to a place below the flood plain.
We've got it - we'll get a ping pong table! Yeah, everyone has always wanted one. That's the ticket. That will work! It's a relatively inexpensive way to 'buy' a few positive points towards the new life. We would purchase a ping pong table. Easy.
We searched for houses. In every house we talked about where said table tennis set would go. "You must really love that ping pong table," said our awesome realtor. "Oh, we don't actually have one," said us. Still, we saw it. We placed it in each of the twenty three houses we saw. We visioned fun at the ping pong. We heard the bounce. We felt the rush of the wind as we zapped the ball with force. We were the ping of the great pong. It would be wonderful.
We found the house. We loved the house. The house was perfect. Oops, there wasn't a place for the ping pong table. Oh, that's okay, we thought. We'll use the groovy garage as a 'hang out' and the ping pong table will be the first addition to the new space. We'll get the table as soon as we arrive. It will be grand.
We moved in. Our stuff didn't fit in the perfect house. The perfect house had character but not storage. The garage was full. Hmmmm, we all pondered. How will we fit the ping pong table? Well, we just will, we thought. It will work. It will.
The weeks went by. The garage sat stuffed. The ping pong dream eluded us. It was out there - close, within in our reach, at any one of the big box stores in the zip code. We looked at photos of the ping pong tables. We played ping pong at our friends' houses. We imagined and we came to think that we would be almost Chinese-like in our skill. It would all work out. It was part of the plan. We kept our eye on the prize.
Money got tight; after all, there are a lot of surprise purchases when you move. Maybe we shouldn't spend too much money on this venture. Craig's List - that's what we'll do! We'll find the table on Craig's List, both fulfilling our dream and saving the environment from one more green and white rectangle in the landfill. We will be heroes - Chinese heroes. It will be wonderful.
We searched Craig's List and everything else like it. We found incredible ping pong tables in San Clemente and Omaha. We found inexpensive ping pong tables in Baton Rouge and Waycross. We scanned the charts each day, waiting for the table that was meant to live with us. It would come. We knew it would.
And it did. On the day of our closing, I got the word. Tony, from Auburn, had the table and we could meet him that night. A mere 38 mile drive and $50 were all that stood between ping pong utopia and us. The dream was alive. We would reach the summit. We could smell it now.
Everything was perfect. June retrieved the children from school, and the news of the ping pong pick up made homework a breeze. When Mr. Cleaver got home from work, the family would be ready. We raked back the debris in the garage and carved out a ping pong table-sized hole for the insertion later that evening.
It would be a joyous time. We would lovingly pile up in Mr. Cleaver's truck and happily cross country, singing and giggling our way to recreational bliss. Our gps friend on the iphone would help us get there. It was all working. The plan was being carried out perfectly.
Oops, Mr. Tony, the table owner has to work late. Oh, that's okay, we'll investigate the precious college town and grab a wee bit of dinner.
Oops, the children are getting irritable. Apparently, an eight, eleven, and twelve year old can't be stuffed into the small backseat of the ping pong picker upper truck cab at the end of a tiring school day.
Oops, it's getting late. Don't think the happy little ping pongers will be getting to bed early tonight.
Oops, June and Ward are developing horrific headaches. We don't have any ibuprofen in Mr. Cleaver's truck. That screaming from the rear is really aggravating the blood vessels in the foreheads.
Okay, back on track. Got the call from Tony. I must admit, I felt a bit daring being the only one with the contact information. I was the only one who could take the call. It was all so clandestine. Oooooo, we are so cool.
We get there, we see the table, and we approach the summit. Victory is almost ours. We have stayed the course. We will win Olympic gold in table tennis. We are the tortoise. We have persevered, and we will win.
Tony explains that the table is a bit hard to move, but that's okay. We're fine with that. It's just our start at the sport. We're only using this table until we speak the lingo, know the jargon, talk the talk. Then we'll purchase the real thing. We'll probably travel to China and a news crew from the US will tag along to document the trip. It will be big. This table is just our first path to greatness. It's the one that will be sold on ebay in a few years. The table they started on, they'll say, and we'll donate the proceeds to children yet to realize the dream. It will be swell.
Ward and Tony awkwardly maneuver the table into the truck. There it is. Almost ours. I'm the one in charge of the deal. I've got to finish it off. I started this thing, and, golly gee, I'll finish it. I reach confidently into my purse and grab the wad - it's more dramatic that way - a wad of money. That's how we do things in these deals - that's how it rolls. I dump the wad into Tony's hand. He doesn't count it. He trusts me. We've been at this together for a long time. He knows he's part of the dream. His time with the big green instrument of greatness is over. It's our time, now.
The trip home is happier. The headaches are abating a bit. The children are now falling asleep on each other and are too tired to fuss. That makes it almost close to silent. There will be a wrong turn or two. That's not a problem. We're almost there. We've waited. We've worked. We are soon to reign supreme of the table tennis world.
A few volleys of the tiny ball and it's time for bed. The greatness will start tomorrow. We've attained it now; the dream will come alive in the morrow. For now, the athletes must sleep. They must rest their weary heads and imagine the moments to come. A $50 table in the hollowed out hole in the garage for now - the world stage next year. There are dreams to be dreamt. We must sleep. Our climb is all but over and soon we will know the thrill of victory.
The morning is beautiful, the smiles are a plenty and school passes quickly. A few things to do after school and then we will begin our work with the paddles of our future. A few more tasks and then we'll be free. We are almost there.
We finish our work, we tidy our lists, we assemble our bookbags for the following day. We go out and easily slide the table from the confines of the old garage into the bright, wonderful world. The breeze is perfect. The temperature is perfect. The bounce of the ball is perfect. We are not yet perfect, but that will come. We are the tortoises of the story - we wait for the glory. We keep at it, keep fighting for the summit.
The feelings are light and airy as the paddles joyfully tap the ball again and again. It's all wonderful. We have made it. There are spend the night parties that just got better. After school is a whole new thing. Parents and children will coexist in harmony and neighbors will amble over for the fun. It really is a whole new world. It was all worth it. We have a ping pong table.
Oops. Not anymore. There is a simple lean. There is a leaning of one side that puts too much pressure on the other side that adds pressure to the failing supports of the base that begins to slide out from under the entire structure that falls to the floor in defeat. It is over. It lasted but fifteen minutes. There is a strawberry on the knee of one of the competitors. There is no blood. It does not appear that the big toe is broken. There will only be a bruise. That's all that's left of the dream now.
It's nightfall. The shattered heap of all of our yearnings must be stuffed back into it's hole. It must be sheltered from the elements.
Maybe we could offer someone the net and balls and four new paddles to come and take it away. This is not our agony of defeat. We won't give up. We are only deterred - only for a minute. The game is in our soul now. We mustn't let it go. We simply cannot.
The fable, friends, and I leave the moral of the story to you. I must rest now. I am spent. My dream is alive but must be treated with tender loving care. I must rest.