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My grandmother was nicknamed Queen Mary for a very specific reason: when she wanted something done, it got done. Mary Rockwell Hovet was the first woman in Howard County to become an assistant superintendent. She married a professor and the two of them, being the first to go to graduate school in their families, set the standard for academic excellence in my family.
And then my dad, Mary’s son, became a lawyer and eventually a teacher himself.
Now the legacy has fallen on me and my two older sisters. We stand on the shoulders of two generations of wickedly smart educators. And I got the name: Anna Mary Hovet.
How could I live up to Queen Mary? How can I meet her passion and drive with fearlessness and perseverance? I work hard for her and lead for her. I campaign for her ideals and I live by her values. She was the kind of woman who lived and loved with everything she had. She collected brooches and turtle figurines. She saved every newspaper clipping featuring my dad or her husband or someone she had met at a board meeting. She made connections and stories and began each day with a fresh face and a different brooch. Some of the older substitute teachers recognize my last name and always tell me Hey, I knew your grandmother! Yeah, she probably was your boss.
Queen Mary passed away before I could even think to ask about how she became such a pioneer. And my dad passed away before I could even think to ask about the history of the Hovet name. All I’m left with is a semi-accurate reporting from my mom and the newspaper clippings Mary left behind.
If I could interview anyone in the world of history, I’d choose someone from my history. I would choose my grandmother. I would ask her about the love letters I found between her and husband before they got married. I would ask her if she knew he was the one when they first met. I would ask her what each brooch meant and I would ask about the people in her newspaper clippings. I would ask her if she saw herself in my eyes. I would ask if I’ve done good by her.
I would ask her if I’ve made her proud.
I hate tennis. I hate the spring sport season. I hate the wind and I hate the rain. I hate waking up at five in the morning and conditioning before the sun is up just to do it all over again after school. So why do I always come running back to tryouts? Maybe for the moment I win that exhibition point. Maybe to feel the adrenaline rush when I see our doubles team make an amazing play. Or maybe I come back because the tennis team is my family. Tennis is an individual sport, and the individual wins the games. But it’s the team that wins the championships. When you’re in your head and thinking too hard about the strategies you try to play, it’s your team that brings you back to the court. Tennis has taught me two things: a. the spring sport season is always the worst and b. let people help you. When I was a fresh-faced junior, about to begin the college application process, I was absolutely positive I wouldn’t need help. However, I was absolutely wrong. When my dad passed away, I had the same mentality. I can handle it. I’m a big girl. I thought that I could keep up with making everyone laugh and having a good time so they’re not uncomfortable talking to someone whose parent passed away. But the reality of it all was that I needed someone to tell me it’s okay to not be okay. I became a robot; I forgot to enjoy how the air felt in my lungs and I forgot to enjoy my sister’s ridiculous laugh. I forgot how to talk about my pain and I forgot how to sleep through the night. I could tell you the Pythagorean Theorem in my sleep, but I didn’t dream anymore. I could recite the dates of battles backwards and forwards, but I forgot my best friend’s birthday. I know how every organ in the human body works, but I couldn’t tell you why my brain felt like it was about to shut off every time I came home. I could write an essay in twenty minutes or less, but I didn’t write poetry anymore. It became all too analyzed, broken down scrutinized; standardized tests created a standardized mind. And the worst part about it all was that even if I bubbled in every correct answer and won all the awards, it would all just have felt hollow because I had traded in my bones for brains, my sleep for As, my happiness for a final grade. There were stress fractures in my soul because I had forgotten what it meant to be worth more than my achievements. Tennis reminded me that the wind will blow and the rain will fall and the world will not stop for your bad days. But the most important thing tennis has ever taught me is to embrace the bad weather and pack a blanket.