We were two high school kids working at summer camp. It was raining, so I got out of my trench-digging duties. She was on break between doing a hundred campers' dishes. So we ran off to the golf course together. Miniature golf, that is.
Puppy love didn't begin to describe our butterflies. We felt like the only two people in the world—our first date, our first kiss, our beginning.
Nineteen years later (15 of those married), we're still working at a camp. But we don't get much time on the mini-golf course these days. Maybe it's the six-year-old twins. Maybe it's having jobs that don't give afternoons off based on weather patterns. Maybe our puppy love aged a bit? Whatever the case, a year ago, feeling less like a "couple," I knew it was time to do something that would get us some time together again.
So for our fourteenth anniversary, I decided to acknowledge both the past and the future. I started our big day by taking Elizabeth to the local mini-golf course. The only downfall—it wasn't raining. Then I took her to a "real" golf course, unveiled two new sets of clubs, and walked her to the driving range where a pro was waiting to give us an hour of instruction.
Her loving response? "But you hate golf! I hate golf."
She was right.
When I was 12, I occasionally played golf with my grandfather. Not only did I get to carry my clubs around the course, I got to carry his clubs—great fun. Even worse, the "rules" of the game never allowed me to knock him down and take away his ball! That's how any self-respecting football player would play any game. And to this day I still can't figure out how golf is defined as a "sport."
Elizabeth, on the other hand, was the "musical" type. In her glory days she competed not by knocking people down, but by singing show tunes and dancing.
All in all, outside of mini-golf, sports have never been a "together" thing for us. Sure I tried to teach her my favorite sports. But she's never been a big fan. I guess she has good reason: there was the time I whacked her in the head with a tennis ball, the time I foul-tipped a softball into her face, and—my favorite—that time she took a hockey puck to the neck playing goalie. Come to think of it, maybe it was me who needed the lessons?
But I wanted to do something "active" with her where we could be together. Although it was risky, I found the only "sport" we both could play—yet neither of us could play: golf. The amazing thing was that it felt just like that first date playing mini-golf so many years ago. Even more important, I figured there was no way I could hit her in the head with a golf ball . . . at least I hoped.
Now a year into our experiment, I'm happy to announce the class with the pro really didn't help all that much. To say we're bad at this game is an understatement. I swing too hard, she hooks too far left. From the first day on the course together, it was a laugh fest. Better still, there's really no chance of either of us improving anytime soon. But that's not why we work so hard to get in our weekly game.
Just as the mini-golf course got us away so long ago, our new bigger course seems to get us away from our grown up world. Don't get me wrong, I still hate golf. But for a completely different reason: the ball never goes where I want it. Yet every time we're on the course, we get that back-in-the-pouring-rain feeling, when our only care in the world was each other.
Sure, golf isn't for everyone, or maybe it's already your thing but not your spouse's. Don't try the teaching route—I've never met a wife who "enjoys" having her husband teaching her a sport. Instead, find an event that's completely out of the box for both of you. It doesn't matter if you're playing church league volleyball or signing up for a personal trainer for two at the gym. Find something that works for the two of you—even taking a weekly pottery or painting class might do the trick as long as you're spending time together.
My only words of warning: be careful. Once you ask her to pick up golf or some new game for you, come wintertime she may ask you to start playing DDR—Dance Dance Revolution—for her. (Just don't tell my old football buddies!)
James Rock, freelance writer and youth and adult speaker, is program director at Trout Lake Camps in Minnesota. www.infusedministries.com.
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