The House of Épée

The weapon is épéeIt’s possible I was just as excited about Asher’s first fencing lesson as he was. We had been talking about taking classes for over a year, but I held out to make sure that he was really interested and not shrugly interested as in “Hey Asher. Do you think you’d like to try fencing?” “(shrug) Mm-kay.”

“You know, you’re going to have to drop something if you want to fit fencing into your schedule.”

“I think I’ll drop gymnastics. I mean, after I hurt myself that time…”

I tried to hide my glee. I didn’t want Asher to think that I was happy that he had hurt his ankle tripping over a rope, but I hated that Asher was taking gymnastics. He only wanted to do it because his brother looked like he was having fun. But I knew gymnastics was not his sport. The kid is as flexible as a steel pipe and feared every exercise that forced him to leave the ground, which applies to, well, all of it. It only took one year and one air cast for him to concede gymnastics defeat. Air cast

Levi decided gymnastics was also not for him because of the callouses forming on his delicate hands. That surprised me a bit because Levi is much more suited to the sport. That said, the schlep to this particular place was torture. Traffic was miserable coming and going, which made the strip malls, ripped up roads and the infinite number of traffic lights unbearable.

And once we arrived, the viewing room where we all sat? Ear-splittingly loud! I’m sure many parental holding pens are much the same. Perhaps it was just the acoustics in this particular windowless room that amplified the cacophony of high-pitched moms talking loudly over whining, crying, screaming kids. My only joy that hour was sitting in front of my computer, headphones on, music pumped up as I watched the silent film that was playing in front of me. ”Terror in the Viewing Room!”

There was that little voice in the back of my head said, “Don’t let them quit gymnastics! What are you teaching them? They should stick to it and try their best and learn how to meet challenges and experience the thrill of overcoming them.” To which I said, “Fuck you.” And I signed Asher up for fencing.

The first class was a trial class. The instructors considered physical attributes, personalities, and individual strengths to determine which of the three weapons most suited a child; sabre, foil, or épée. As was explained to me, sabre is for the aggressive, competitive type. The foil is a weapon of precision and strategy, and épée is best suited to a strong, tall fencer who is capable of a wide range of movement. I likened the experience to the sorting hat at Hogwarts. The coaches, like the sorting hat, could look into the eyes of a gangly, awkward child and see right into the soul of the future fencer.

The coach took all of three minutes to say, “I think épée. He’s tall, and that’s good for épée. How tall is his father?”

“Uhhhh….” So many things. I froze.

He asked again as if to tell me that my height was irrelevant. “Épée is the longest weapon, and height is an advantage. How tall is his father?”

“Well…” I couldn’t remember exactly how tall the donor was. Is. Not quite 6 feet tall. 5’11”? 5’10”? I mean, anything over 5’7” is tall in our tribe. People tell me all the time that they think Asher is tall. He’s tall for a Jew, is my reply. Also he has a small head like I do, and that makes us look taller than we are. I’ve lived with this small head and studied the phenomenon closely. Take my word for it.

“Um, not that tall, but there is tall in our families.” Why didn’t I tell him that Asher doesn’t have a father? That we have a donor? Father, donor, height is height. Who cares? But I should have said something. Because now we have to come out later, after he’s already imagined Asher’s tall father. After Gabriella shows up at class and he wonders who she is. I hate missing windows of opportunity. I’m usually better than that.

Add to the father/donor thing my propensity to second-guess everything. What if Asher isn’t really going to be that tall? I’m the shortest in my family at 5’5”. What if he’s the shortest in his family? What if the sorting hat is wrong and he is Ravenclaw instead of Gryffindor? What if his fencing scholarship is meant for his Sliding-Doors-self who is training with another weapon? Hashtag: FencingDreamsFoiled

My brother was a fencer in high school and for a year in college. I couldn’t wait to text him with an image of Asher at his first lesson.

“Guess who’s fencing!” I wrote waiting his enthusiastic reply.

“Looks good,” he answered immediately.

“Épée,” I added.

“I guess épée has its merits,” he wrote with intended sarcasm.

“I guess you weren’t épée.”


I’ll just be over here second-guessing in a corner.


2 thoughts on “The House of Épée

  1. This is so timely and helpful because my daughter is starting fencing soon and I had no idea there would be decisions that needed to be made. Or maybe not for us, we’re short. And not very competitive. Huh, now that I re-read the fencing options, maybe she should just try gymnastics instead.

    1. Luckily, the decisions were out of my hand. The coaches really do seem to know what they’re doing…I tell myself. If she wants to try fencing, give it a go. We never know what’s going to stick. I mean, who are we? Just the parents. Tell me how it goes!

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