For the amount of sporting goods equipment we have in our basement, in the driveway, and in a garage, you would think we would be the two most physically fit adults you’d ever met.
Two road bikes.
Two mountain bikes.
Our most recent purchases: snowshoes bought at an end-of-season sale long after the last flake drifted from the sky and a used fishing boat that has been dry docked in the driveway since spring, thanks to a delivery of mulch that was dumped on the blacktop.
Funny thing about all this stuff: Owning it does nothing for your physique. You actually have to use it.
Some of these acquisitions have seemed to have a direct impact on climate change. Kayaks? Low water tables. Cross-country skis? Limited snowfall.
I’m convinced that if we put in a backyard swimming pool we would condemn central Pennsylvania to months of dry, cloudy days with temperatures in the 50s.
Some of this stuff is decades old.
My tennis racket has to be 40 years old. Something about my racket cover — I’m guessing it’s the appliquéd gingham dog stitched on it — dates it to about 1973. It’s one of the first metal rackets — a shiny frame with a sweet spot the size of a grapefruit. The thing weighs a ton. It’s like swatting with a two-by-four.
The roller blades haven’t been out of the box in years. Between the shin guards and elbow guards and wrist guards, it was evident to me I was pretty close to being in full-body armor as I wobbled over the pavement.
My husband — he with the size 14 feet — had roller blades that had an extra roller. I’m not exaggerating by much when I say I used to think a small child could have paddled down Spring Creek in one of those.
My boogie board is not quite as old as my tennis racket, but it’s still practically an antique. Its Styrofoam bottom has been chewed up by sand over the years. The leash had to be replaced ages ago. One of my nephews has a slick-bottomed boogie board. It skitters across waves like mercury on glass. Mine’s more like a slice of bread soaking up water.
“Aunt Chris,” he jeers. “How’s the antique?”
In no uncertain words, I tell said nephew that we’ll see who’s talking when he’s 52 years old and the water temperature is a little too close to his age for his comfort.
The seas have always been a bit stormy with the sailboats. It turned out neither one of us wanted to be first mate. Two captains do not a crew make. I’ve never caught on to the idea of reading the wind — of trying to follow something I can’t see. It didn’t help that we have often been subject to what I’d call “Goldilocks winds” — too light, too strong or just no wind at all.
As for the kayaks, it’s been a little more smooth sailing. I originally thought we’d purchase a two-person kayak ... that was before we went paddling for the first time. Arriving for the outing, I muttered to my husband why in the world he had rented two kayaks for us. All of the other couples in the launch area were being assigned to two-person kayaks. But within five minutes of being on the water, with querulous voices carrying over the water, piercing the early stillness, I realized that it is best for you and your marriage to paddle alone.
There have only been two points of contention with the kayaks. The first had to do with each boat’s color. The manufacturer offered our models in a pretty, perky blue or a loud and proud yellow. Mark chose yellow — “the better to see us when we turn over,” he said. We look like two bloated banana peels floating downstream.
Then there’s the emergency towrope. The Christmas after we bought the boats, in the middle of the morning’s festivities, Mark handed me a box, and I pulled out a neon yellow rope with a buoy on it. Color coordinated, I thought. It’s for an emergency on the water, he explained helpfully. “For if I capsize and am in trouble out of my boat,” he added. Did you buy one to rescue me, I asked. To this day, his flustered acknowledgement that why, no, he hadn’t thought to buy two of these is the stuff our marriage is made of.
Yes, when it comes to stuff, we have lots of it.
A swift and rollicking paddle down a swollen Pine Creek that resembled the mighty, muddy Mississippi.
The 26-mile beastly hot, sand-blasted bike ride I committed us to once we left our car on the mainland and arrived on Ocracoke Island on our two wheels, instead of four.
Hiking out over the edge of the Laser — it feels like flying, the side of the hull rising up, up, up as hips, waist, arms, head stretch out over the water.
Cross-country skiing on fresh fallen snow in the Adirondacks.
Hitting tennis balls nice and easy in the early evening after work up on the tennis court at Governor’s Park.
We have a lot of stuff.
Good, used stuff.
Chris Arbutina writes a monthly column for the CDT.