It’s been two days of skiing, and I am aching. I have not skied since a half day at Sandia to celebrate my undergraduate degree in 2010. So, to wind down after a walk around a lake (and I refuse to call it a hike because my body is sore, and I know it would do a full revolt if it knew I took it on a hike) and exploring the California mountain town, my friends and I opted for a couple rounds of tabletop croquet.
I have a long history of tabletop croquet and an even longer one of croquet. Having held a mallet since I could walk, my launch into the miniaturized table top version began in high school, when a set was found at Pier 1 while looking for mother-approved Christmas ornaments. My brother and I took the set to visit my father and family in Houston to celebrate the New Year, as the Houston lawns proved much too small for the actual version of the game. Finding the miniature version a success, I would later convince the Mannford High School Student Council to host a tabletop croquet tournament during one of the generic sports homecomings my senior year.
My competitive side really shows during a round of croquet.
“No, take your two! Set up and make your wickets! But, you gotta make it!”
“Come on! You gotta make those shots!”
“Nice. You’re good. He’s wicketed from you.”
“Roquet us both, but not too hard, but you gotta hit us, too.”
My croquet coaching takes me back.
It takes me back to recently showing my friends tabletop croquet at a going away party for a friend leaving the state, as my teammates look skeptical as I explain the many, many rules.
It takes me back to Oxford. As I take a break from writing about Shakespeare, with a mallet in one hand and a gin and tonic in the other, I rule the pristine lawn surrounded by buildings, which had at one time been film sets for the Harry Potter film series and various period pieces. Somewhere, hidden in the internet is a Facebook photo from my old non-trans account, when I could still be befriended by family, of my blue striped hoodie and middle school-aged khaki shorts with pockets large enough to hold a large bottle of fizzy water and a Robert Jordan paperback. I still have the hoodie. The shorts, I believe, finally dissolved in the wash. It takes me back to “going high pitch” in frustration as my team failed to make their shots, a vocal intonation, which would earn me the nickname of Princess of Yearbook during my junior year of high school, and a nickname that when an ex questioned what P.O.Y. meant, I would lie and say it meant Prince of Yearbook.
The game of tabletop croquet continues to take me back.
To family reunions and tournaments.
To never making it to the final round.
To tracing my finger along my father and uncle’s name on the winning plaque, hoping that one day, my name would be on it.
To my grandparents lawn with towering trees, surrounded by an expansive garden, a pool with a diving board, a large dog run, a yellowish-brown tin barn covered speckled with spray painted the University of Oklahoma symbols, courtesy of my father and uncle.
I remember game after game of croquet on that lawn.
But, I remember things said to.
And although, I wish I could make the words go away or make the words impact lessen, I can’t.
“Did you bring your husband with you?”
It’s uttered as my father’s shot comes up short.
It’s laughed when my uncle’s mallet skims the top of the ball, not making solid contact.
It’s teased when I fail to make the next wicket, leaving my ball in a perfect position to be used by the other team.
The remembered phrase makes me feel sick.
But, I remember.
As the games of the night end, my team loses both, and while I want a rematch, I have a thirteen hour drive in the morning and head to bed.
But, I hear the phrase “Did you bring your husband with you?” again and again, uttered by my father and family members. It reeks of misogyny. And, I wonder, how many memories will continue to be tainted by sexism, racism, homophobia, or transphobia?