Summers rolled around and my father would pack us all up into our Volvo station wagon for an 8 hour drive up the coast to our cottage in Maine. It was bittersweet leaving behind my local school friends for a far off land of distant cousins. But in Maine lay the beginnings of my social independence. Tennis Lessons.
Weekday mornings I'd wake up early to the cacophony of an ancient (circa 1950's) alarm clock and instead of the dread of school classes I'd spring up with excitement, jump on my bicycle, racket over my back, and peddle through the coastal fog that blankets the Penobscott Bay to the old Megunticook Country Club.
There I'd line up with the other boys my age and practice with drills and games, barely noticing the fog roll out to sea. It was the first sport I excelled at which meant I had to a few other lessons to learn along the way, like how to win gracefully and lose with composure. Just as most lessons in life, failure is the best coach. As you can imagine I experienced tantrums on both sides of the court. The end of year tournament always ended with more than a few tears and absolutely indelible memories. But through it all we grew up little by little and improved our games as well as our self-control.
Win or lose, each morning session would end with lunch. And well before I reached an age of being trusted with actual money here I could independently place my order and SIGN for the bill. What a revelation. Here I was, bike at the ready, food only a signature away, parents barely a passing thought. The world was my oyster. What more could a 10 year old want?