The pitcher’s mound is dark with rain. The path from home to first is sloppy. But the puddles have been filled with sand, and the fathers have just put down a fresh white line clearly delineating fair and foul.
Little girls in raincoats attack their own field with rakes. Watching them, I find myself thinking back to when my daughters played softball and all those years when I didn’t say a word despite the cold burn of resentment I saw smoldering in their eyes.
The girls’ field, often shared with the youngest boys, is tucked into the back of the four-field complex. It’s lower than the rest of the fields, and prone to flooding. Instead of turf, the pitcher’s mound is surrounded by hard, red dirt. And while new dugouts were built for the front fields—painted dugouts with real siding and wooden benches and slanted, shingled roofs—the improvements to the girls’ field were scheduled for another time.
I glance at Squints, throwing the ball to another player. His uniform resembles a professional’s: shirt emblazoned with the team name and logo on the front, his number on the back; hat also with the team name; long, white pants.
The girls are given numbered tee shirts, a visor and black shorts.
As they got older, the girls’ team moved to the other back field, the field where my son is playing his makeup game tonight. But, usually he plays on one of the front fields—fields where my daughters never played.
* * *
The local district has no school tomorrow because of the voting and so the park is more crowded than usual and, despite the chill in the air and the rain that threatens, everyone is in a joyous spirit.
A little girl goes by in a dance leotard and black leggings and pink flip flops, dragging her pink scooter behind her. She drops her pink helmet in the grass before she scooters off. A woman in rolled-up jeans chases after the girl in pink, calling her name. Come back here!
A boy in blue shorts and Nike shoes thumps a tennis ball against the concrete wall of the snack stand. We have no umpire and while the boys are waiting, Corey from Squints’ team comes up to pet Destructo.
“My mom’s on a cop chase with my sister.”
“What?” I look up from my book.
“My sister wanted to go to the playground and my mother didn’t want her to, so my sister got on her scooter and took off.” Corey gives me a crooked grin and pets Destructo.
I can’t help but admire the feisty spirit of this little girl in pink flip flops who just wants to play and have fun and I wonder, three years hence, if she chooses to play softball, whether she will notice the difference in the uniforms and the difference in the fields. Will some of that spirit inside her be squelched?
Derrick, our umpire, shows up and Nick approaches the plate and takes a warm-up swing and I can feel the sticky resin from the pine picnic table where I sit and write.
The first baseman hits his mitt and the fourth ball is called and Nick takes his base. The ump wears gray sweats and a Yankees cap backwards beneath his helmet and squats on one knee. A coach hands him a stack of napkins which he tucks into the inside pocket of the shield he wears upon his left arm and I have no idea what the napkins are for, but I do know that in his right hand he holds a clicker, and with it he numbers the balls and the strikes and the outs.
A group of five approaches the picnic table where I sit. I scoot down to make room and am unacknowledged. They sit and block my view of the game and I feel suddenly small and insignificant and squeezed out of my position. The mother and her daughter eat Chinese takeout from Styrofoam containers. Her son shoots the plastic lid of his Nestea across the table and hits his sister. I say nothing because that would be rude, and I don’t get up and move because that would be obvious. So I sit here, shifting this way and that, to see beyond them to the game.
The girl takes three bites of her food and passes it to the boy who sits beside her. She picks up his phone and reads his texts aloud while her little brother peels the label from his bottle of Nestea.
“I’m going dress shopping,” she says in reply to a text.
“I’ll go with you,” the boy says, slurping at a noodle.
“You can try on shoes for me,” she says.
“Stilettos?” She challenges, eyebrows raised.
And again he agrees. They flirt shyly with each other, pretending that they’re not flirting but fooling no one.
Another boy comes up, his last name printed on the back of his shirt. He throws a tennis ball against the concrete wall of the snack stand and catches it with his lacrosse stick before Destructo can snatch it up. A boy pops a wheelie on his bike and rolls past me.
Fancy shed-like buildings with real siding and slanted, shingled roofs house garbage cans. A boy climbs upon one to watch the game.
The boy offers the girl a piece of his candy bar, but she refuses, telling him that she’s too fat.
And I notice all of this but I never did notice whether the girls’ field ever got those new dugouts. And I hold myself distant as all writers do, because if we were to speak, we would break the magic of silent observation, but I wonder whether writing is just an excuse to hide behind my insecurities.
I wonder what would happen if I were to speak up.
Labels: Baseball, Beauty?, Community, Culture, Daughters, Growing up, Perceptions, Raising Children, Rules, Softball