My brothers and I are playing out in the yard. It's a perfect Pittsburgh day in May: warm and sunny, the sky blue streaked with white, the trees and grass the ultimate fresh green. The game is badminton. John, the oldest, swats the birdie powerfully in my direction. I run forward and lob it back. Michael, one year my junior, hobbled by a badminton injury from earlier in the season, still manages to reach out with his racquet and send another shot arcing high into the air. It hangs silhouetted against the sun for a second, before falling so close in front of me I need to jump backward to have enough room to return it.
We volley back and forth for a while, laughing and shouting. Now John is replacing himself with Patrick, who's been hanging on the sidelines waiting to play. Pat whoops his way out onto the grass before diving and lightly tapping the birdie just over the net, so that I have to plunge forward. I reach out with a weak but determined backhand, barely making it, then lose my balance and land face down in the grass. It smells good, feels soft as plush carpet. My brothers clap and cheer for me - "A-my! A-my! A-my!"
I stand up, panting and sweating. Riley, the baby, strolls out, impeccably dressed as always. "Need some backup?" he asks.
Now he plays deep and I play close to the net, and we hammer back shots as fast as they come. True, it's only badminton, and we're winning against a lunatic and a cripple, but it still makes me giddy.
I remember this feeling from childhood, playing with my brothers. Not wanting to be "the girl". Wanting to win, even if it's only to hear my name chanted, to claim a grunting high five.
Somebody calls time out and Pat's wife hands me a glass of white wine. Back to normal until next year, when I get to play with the boys again.