The Head of Athletics at Beaver Country Day (formerly all-girls) School opened their first ever Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony by quoting Cicero: The greater the difficulty, the greater the glory.
It was a nice classical touch and I wracked my brain to come up with the Latin for that familiar phrase. (Not successful. No more was I successful in learning when and where Cicero said those words, or even if he really did.) But then it dawned over Marble Head: Here is the classical source of No Gain, No Pain.
(While I cannot verify that Cicero said that pithy quote, I can tell you that his name comes from the Latin for chickpea, Cicer. According to Plutarch, this is because one of his ancestors had a ‘cleft in the tip of his nose resembling a chickpea’. I am having difficulty imagining such a cleft. More likely a skin tag or a wart, is what I think. I can also tell you that Cicero’s sister-in-law, Fabia, was a Vestal Virgin, which was a very honorable thing to be in ancient Rome. I mention this otherwise completely irrelevant fact because Lee and I were sisters-in-law for almost 25 years. I remain unsure what happens to one’s in-law-ships upon divorce. I seek advice in this matter.)
When I first met LeeLee I was dating her older brother, a poet and a pot-smoking Nietzsche-spouting hipster. I was a scrawny, wannabe-poet and LeeLee was an archetypal jock. (Except that she was not archetypal, as we shall see.)
At Beaver Country Day* she played varsity field hockey, basketball and lacrosse and tennis. She was the captain of all her teams; she excelled at sports that involved hurling a ball into a goal or across a net, all while eluding one’s opponent. She was an adept at wielding weapons such as field hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and tennis rackets. Had ice-hockey been played in girls’ schools back then, I feel confident she could have inflicted much pain with an ice hockey stick, or a puck, or both. She regularly broke records for goals, baskets, opponents pummeled, throws, whatever they were called.
When Lee entered a room, resplendently strong and sweaty in her brown pinny, I cowered. After all, my greatest, and only, claim to record-breaking in the gym department at my girls’ school was in the number and ingenuity of my excuses to avoid gym. Should they ever institute a Hall of Fame for Sports Evasion, I like to think I would be a contender.
Given my wimpiness and Lee’s manifestly superior athleticism, how did we end being such friends? You may well ask. The truth is that LeeLee read far more poetry than I ever played field hockey, and has even written some. I did in fact sail and ski (neither of which involve hurling balls) and I discovered a willingness to play Member-Guest tennis as Lee’s partner, just as she was willing to compete for the Consolation Prize rather than walk away with the Silver Cup.
We discovered we both thought was an excellent idea to end – or begin - a day with our kids at the beach a trip to DQ. It turns out you need a very special person to appreciate Dairy Queen as much as we did.
Basically though, we seem to find the same things funny. This has on occasion proved embarrassing, and possibly dangerous. We like to walk on the beach and solve the world’s problems, a pastime now sadly relegated to Personal Ads. We have spent more hours than is healthy counting the possible attendees at our respective funerals, and lamented their small number. The truth is, some things cannot be explained.
If my dearly-doted–on granddaughter ever sees fit to play field hockey, I hope that LeeLee will see fit to cheer her on. I will await them in the nearby coffee shop, reading about relics and fruitlessly seeking the patron saint of girls’ athletics.
*Fittingly enough, BCD was the sports rival of Milton Academy Girls Upper School (MAGUS), in my time. Not that I ever graced any team, in my time.