Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

Remembering Carmela “CeCe” Alves, One of the Greats

With more than seven billion people roaming our planet, there’s no way you can meet all of the great ones, no matter how hard you try.  And we lost one of those on September 12, when my friend Carmela “CeCe” Alves passed away.  If you weren’t lucky enough to cross paths with CeCe, you’ve been denied a chance to know one of the greats in person, but maybe these words will give you a tiny idea of just what you missed.

I met CeCe in the Spring of 2012, minutes before playing my first tennis match with the Smash Hits, and I noticed two things about her right away: her enthusiasm and her New York. Yes, her New York. As we were being introduced, she greeted me with a huge, eyes-first smile and said, “Nice to meet ya, Kah-ren” with an accent so unmistakably Brooklyn that it made me crave a slice of pizza. She was so exuberant I’d have thought she was closer to my age than Mom’s, and she radiated such warmth that I felt like she already loved me, even though she barely knew me.  She knew I was the daughter of one of her tennis friends, and that was enough for CeCe. I soon learned there was nothing unusual about her interaction with me. She was the kind of person who needed only a hint of a reason to love nearly everyone she met.

I got to know CeCe on the tennis courts, where she always showed up raring to go. In fact, before one match last fall she left her house perhaps a little too rarin,’ because she ran over her tennis racquet as she was pulling out of the driveway. Some people whose tennis racquets had just become road kill would have called their captain and bailed out of the match, but not CeCe. She showed up—on time, no less—borrowed a racquet (from my mother, I think), played on, and played hard.

When CeCe was on the court, she gave it everything she had, every time. I loved playing with her because she was a relentlessly upbeat partner who always found a way to encourage you no matter how big an egg you were laying out on the courts.

“You just needed to get ‘em out of your system, Kah-ren,” she once said to me after I had double-faulted for what felt like the tenth time in a row. She gave me a dainty little pack on the back and then mock-growled, “Now let’s get ‘em.”  Our girl was competitive, but in that positive way that made you want to play better, just because she was your partner and you didn’t want to let her down. But she never for a minute lost sight of the fact that it was just a game, and that we were out there for friendship and, above all, fun.

And oh, did CeCe know a thing or two about having fun. She was a character, a pistol, a hoot and a riot—all rolled into a compact frame that stood no taller than 5’4”—and she could liven up any gathering, including a ladies tennis match. Like most of us Smash Hits, she was known to drop the occasional set when out on the courts. Unlike most of us, she sometimes followed the dropping of the set with the dropping of an F-bomb. Not only did it crack me up every time, especially when it happened at one of the more uptight venues, but it reminded both me and tennis not to take ourselves too seriously.

CeCe’s fun-loving personality and give-it-your-all mentality extended far beyond the tennis courts. Her family was her life, which we knew from the way she beamed when she talked about them.  She poured her whole heart into the work she did at the Little Acorn Patch. She loved the place, the staff, the parents, and above all, the kids. It was never just a job to her.

CeCe loved her life, and I don’t mean in some abstract, passive “isn’t life lovely?” sense. From everything I saw, my friend really went for it. She laughed, she danced in high heels that raised her height all the way up to 5’6,” she traveled, she treasured her family and friends, and she celebrated the life she had. In fact, she was traveling in Italy with beloved friends when she had the heart attack that claimed her life. Knowing CeCe, that would have been exactly the kind of ending she’d write for herself, except that she would have made darned sure her family was there, and she would have waited another 20 years at least.

And I wish she’d have been put in charge of the ending, because this world could have used 20 more years of CeCe.

Comments

  1. This was a wonderful tribute. Though I didn’t have the good fortune of meeting and getting that “eyes-first” greeting of CeCe’s, I feel like I have through your words.

    • Thanks so much, Ned. The thought that I might have come close to capturing this one-of-a-kind lady brings me a lot of comfort.

Trackbacks

  1. […] 3) The team name: Capital Punishment. I have long believed that a great team name can obscure a serious lack of skill, as evidenced by my tenure with the Smash Hits. […]

  2. […] the hapless, but not entirely winless, Smash Hits. We even managed to soldier on when our beloved CeCe passed away unexpectedly, though that’s one loss from which we’ll never […]