Just as school is drawing to a close, and parents are relishing the thought of a three-month reprieve from educational duties—no band concert to attend, no homework to check, no spelling words to memorize—sports season rushes in to fill the void.
For my daughters, the sport is softball. On the evening of the first practice, we rush out the door, “Is your homework done? Have you practiced your clarinet? Hurry up, we don’t want to be late.”
I sit back and watch the practice. The girls tentatively talk with one another as they toss the ball back and forth. They exchange names, ages, schools. Off the field, their parents are doing the same—sharing little morsels of their lives, a little at a time, like good chocolate that you can’t eat all at once.
And then, suddenly, game day is here. Everything is new: Clean uniforms. Freshly-mown grass. Neat chalk lines clearly marking foul. Summer a promise in the air. Parents sit in metal bleachers eating hot dogs and cheering on their kids.
The first game is a disappointment. The second is worse: Carolyn gets hit in the leg with the ball. Julia strikes out—twice—and starts to cry. Despite feverish coaching from the parents, “throw it to first! TO FIRST!!!” and wild gesticulations, the girls can’t quite get it together. The parents sit, resigned, wincing at yet another strike-out.
We go home. Dusty uniforms. Grit between my teeth. In my shoes. In the house.
My husband records a little L next to the game on the schedule on the fridge.
But at the third game, the team comes together. Alex hits two line drives. She barrels to first and only after she’s called in safe, does she meet her father’s eyes and grin. Megan gets the ball from third to first in record time. Angela makes a play at second.
Suddenly this group of strangers has become a team. Suddenly, I remember why I love softball season.
I love the crack of the bat against the ball. I love the roar of the parents. The little tears that gather in their eyes as they watch their daughters make their first hit. Best of all, I love the confident smile on a young girl’s face as she makes it home.
Like spring flowers, these girls blossom before our eyes, a little at a time, bending their necks to reach their full height, turning their faces towards the sun.
I watch the girls as the game draws to a close. They march down the field, shaking hands with the other team. The picture is precious: Unadorned faces. Bright smiles. Tanned noses and skinned knees. Chewed nails. Tousled hair. And complete confidence in themselves.
We head home, the girls chattering a mile a minute in the backseat.
My husband records a little L on the schedule on the fridge.
But in my heart, I change it to a W.
Note: A version of this essay was previously posted in The Christian Science Monitor
Labels: Community, Daughters, Growing up, Raising Children, Softball