Sunday, December 27, 2009


People acquire reputations for all kinds of crazy things: the number of days spent camped out in a tree; the unlikelihood of delivering eight babies in one sitting; the variety of women willing to appear naked in your magazine. I've yet to hear of a "name" acquired by the number of times you get hit by a ball.

The Wills family does have a ball reputation of sorts--trophies and medals won by hitting balls with a racket, smashing balls with a wrist, slinging balls over water, slamming balls against a wall. No medals have yet been won by offering one's body as a pelt spot. However, this is about to change; I demand that personal impact be recognized as an official event.

My unique sport began innocently enough when I stood near a railing at my grandson's ice hockey game. First time I'd ever personally witnessed this game--and to add to my uncanny luck, other family members stood beside me. But only I was singled out by the puck that ricocheted off the ice and found its target on my upper arm. It was Chris, (standing next to me), who noted, "Of course, Mom, you were the one that got hit." How he recognized this tendency so early, is difficult to imagine. But let's just say his statement was predictive of future events.

Once Dane became fully invested in volleyball, Rob and I attended most of his matches. The Anaheim Sports Arena contains some twenty volleyball courts. Unlike other spectators, I've been hit by balls flying out of at least ten of those courts. Balls from courts behind me smash against the net and find my back. Balls from warm-up smashes clunk off my head. Balls from near-empty courts find me as I head for the cafeteria--and one managed to knock off my glasses. In fact my glasses alone have been tweaked three times. Other parents noticed and began saying things like, "You do seem to have a bulls eye painted on your body." "You need to arrive wearing a helmet." "Don't sit by her--she gets hit every time."

Once a ball from a nearby court followed me down a narrow hall and nailed me as I entered the ladies room.

The gold-medal moment actually occurred in a high school gymnasium. Like other spectators, I was sitting innocently in the bleachers when it happened. A ball from the court in front of us sailed down the length of the gymnasium, hit a side wall at the end of our bleachers, and flew like a homing pigeon straight for my head. Dozens of other heads were available, of course, but obviously none of them qualified.

Aware of my propensities, this year 23 members of our family spent Christmas Eve trying to hit me with an under-inflated beach ball. They gave themselves great credit for originality and timing--howling with glee when they connected. Only at the end did I assure them they hardly qualified for "best shot of the year."

That came a few weeks earlier when, with my granddaughter, I visited a tiny tots birthday party. Like grasshoppers, some ten three-year-olds leaped and frolicked across a small living room, chasing little toys and pinata candies. Among the objects on the floor was a tiny ball. To my astonishment, a miniature boy took a mighty swing with his miniature toe, caught the ball just right, and sent it cascading into my face.

The man sitting next to me said, "Oh! Are you all right?" He probably didn't believe me when I said, "Well, that was certainly the smallest of my assailants. You wouldn't know this, of course, but I do have a national reputation--as a target."

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