Ping pong

A random conversation reminded me of a pasttime Dave and I shared… in the Hinman family rec-room were three items of importance: a ping-pong table, a stereo system, and a refrigerator.

Throughout our teen years, when weather was poor, or we didn’t feel like going outside, we would migrate down to the fluorescently lit rec-room, pick out an LP, and bat a ping-pong ball back and forth for a while. Neither of us were very good. The fact that there was a steel I-beam running across the room over the net, at about 7.5 feet, didn’t help, except it occasionally added hilarity.

We listened to Styx, Kansas, Boston, Billy Squier, Van Halen… and played ping pong, and drank ginger ale or coke or pepsi.. and talked about stuff. Talked about friends and music, school and girls, about dreams and inventions… and some of memories we already shared.

I can smell the room, the paddles, steel/rust on my fingers after hanging from the I-beam… the sound of the freezer in the pantry room attached, the colors of the walls, floor, carpet. The pencil rubbings on the walls from a family trip to England. A prized model of a Standard Oil gas pump that sat on the bar. And, at some point later, after Dave and I had gone off to college, a bitterly disputed poster my mom had originally hung on my bedroom door, a modern stylized graphic of a man holding his light-bulb-threaded head in one arm, the caption “If it wasn’t screwed on…”

I guess it went there with my mom, when she married Dave’s dad? Or maybe she’d gotten one for his family when she got that one for me? She and I had the worst fight I can remember when she put it on my door… It took me years to realize that I felt it meant she didn’t respect me, or thought poorly of me in some way, and I didn’t have the words or awareness to understand that and verbalize it to her.

Boys. Feelings. Sometimes we’re not so good at recognizing them. How much simpler and better life would be if men were more self-aware, and could more often say “Ouch, that hurts, it makes me feel like you don’t like me as I am.”

Anyway. I don’t think such a topic ever came up in such a form, playing ping-pong in the rec-room. Teenage boys are buffeted about by their feelings with about as much control as a ping-pong ball. We get caught in the net or go flying off the table a lot.

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