Quiet in the stands, please!

Jul. 17, 2013 @ 10:28 PM

So, there we were at the beach, 30 of us, in a huge house together, having a helluva time. My generation spent most of each day at the beach under umbrellas and tents, yakking, catching up, arguing, laughing, and keeping an eye out for cocktail hour ... which seemed to be earlier every day. Grown children, nieces and nephews, though, decided that the clock was not a factor: Cocktails are appropriate from breakfast on, a lifestyle I frown upon outwardly ...  inwardly, not so much.

The little ones spent most days in the pool or the hot tub (yes, this place had a pool and a hot tub), on the beach burying each other, or riding up and down on the elevator (yes, this place has an elevator ... which may now be in need of repair ... ha, ha, just kidding, Mr. Realtor. It’s not like we wore out the elevator or anything...).
My grandson, Charlie (who will one day be president) and his brother, Georgie (who, being enthralled with karate, will one day be director of Homeland Security) had put together a gigantic bracket filled with family names for a ping-pong tournament. Having helped do the match-ups, I gotta say I think they were pretty fair. (Naturally, I “lost” in the first round to my sister, Karen, who, in reality, couldn’t beat me on her best day, but I wanted to sit in the gallery and watch the rest of the tournament wearing my best hat and sunglasses, in case the TV cameras caught me.)
The matches went on for days, with poor Charlie and George running from beach to bedroom, hither and yon, to find the opponents and beg them to come to the table, which most of us did with only mild whining. Eventually, the field narrowed to the last six players and after dinner on our last night, we all gathered round, drinks in hand, to watch the final competition.
First up was Georgie, 7, against my niece, Katherine, 26. Now, Georgie is a “sleeper” when it comes to ping-pong -- hence his bona fide position in the final round. I swear, you’re busy being tickled at how adorable he is, and he smashes an overhead corner shot right past you ... not that he ever did that to me. Katherine was stunned she had to “up” her game, but, although it was close, she was able to beat him.
Next came Charlie, who would play his Uncle Rob (my son and heir ... when I’m gone, he’ll inherit this column), and as surprising as Georgie is, Charlie, 9, is even better! He dumbfounded Robby with his speed and agility, his precision and versatility. Robby had to work to beat him, but he did.
Then, Katherine had to play Chuck, my son-in-law, and, in a thrilling face-off, Chuck, who is AWESOME, thrashed Kattie, and down went the last female in the contest -- which is totally because I chose to “lose,” obviously. 
Next, Robby had to play Joey, my nephew, and this was HUGE.  (Meanwhile, in the gallery -- meaning lots of barstools and dining room chairs -- we were doing the “wave,” and those “Gimme an R ... Gimme an O ...” cheers. In fact, we were so “engaged” that Charlie, who was also the tournament director, had to ask repeatedly for “quiet in the stands,” at the request of a player.)
Joey won, which meant Chuck was to face him for the final match.  After a 5-minute rest -- during which Robby coached Chuck on Joey’s weaknesses, and Joey poured himself more wine -- the tournament director asked them to shake hands, and to remember to shake hands again after the match, along with his hand, and the hands of the ball “boys” (Mac, 10, and Maggie, 21).
My sister, Susan, led us in “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and play began. The ball flew so fast, it was often invisible to the naked eye, at least to my naked eye, so it was difficult to keep track of every point ... or, I possibly could have had one too many Mojitos, but still ... very fast. 
Our cheering was increasingly robust, and our “waves” more fluid -- if also progressively dangerous -- as the points flew by. There were challenges, point clarifications, and outstanding put-aways. But, when the smoke cleared, and the two breathless, sweat-soaked opponents put down their paddles, it was Joey who emerged victorious. 
After the wild applause died down, the tournament director presented the trophies (Snickers for the winner, Gummy Worms for the runner-up), and the players each gave short speeches ... which Karen and I didn’t hear, because we had fallen off our barstools during the last “wave”, and, not realizing the match was over, were still screaming “Gimme a C!  Gimme a J!” from the floor. Definitely needed the elevator to get to my room that night.

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at chh@heraldsun.com, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com