Monday, 4 March 2024

International Volleyball

Travis Mewhirter, 2023, and the “most special” year to date

Travis Mewhirter

It’s September. I’m sitting on my deck back home, which in this case means Hampstead, Maryland. There’s grass here. And trees. And quiet.

I say quiet, not silence, because the place is always humming with life — real life, not the kind of life you get in Hermosa Beach, where the sounds are cars and planes and music from the neighbors and people talking loudly on phones. Here, the sounds are of birds and bugs, of crickets singing their songs and creeks slipping through the woods past my backyard.

It is, in other words, the perfect place to think, a place replete as much with nostalgia as it is relaxation and reflection. Earlier, I was chatting with my parents. Mom filled me in on all the town’s latest: Who’s getting married, who’s having a kid and when the due date is, where this person is moving and that person is now working. We talked about my niece, Ryleigh, all of 2 years old now, an indefatigable blonde who, somehow, is running and talking and can identify animals, from an eagle to an octopus. It’s wild, as is the simple fact that my little brother has a child, and so do I, and now our children — cousins! — are kind of friends. As much of friends as toddlers and infants can be, anyway.

All of that might seem insignificant to most. These are normal conversations for adults to have with their parents. Siblings soon have kids of their own, and their kids become friends. That’s life. But what was significant about that conversation, and every other one I will have over the next few days, is a topic that never came up: Volleyball.

I smiled a bit when I noticed that. The sport that I have been so obsessive about these past five years — and still am — took a back seat to the bigger things in life. It took on a different role, the conduit for a season that can be summed up in the word that continued to find itself on the tip of my tongue this year: Special.

The Mewhirter family on the back deck in Maryland

Truth be told, I didn’t know what this year would look like this past spring, though it wasn’t difficult to predict that it would be different than the previous four in what can generously be labeled as my career.

My son was due in mid-April. Would I want to continue playing after he was born? To travel for weeks at a time, away from my wife and newborn? I didn’t know.

Traveling was pain enough when it was just Delaney and me. So I looked at the schedule and made a vow to play as much as I…

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