“Stay in the yard!!!!”

My brother wanted to be a pitcher which meant I, glasses and all, had to be the catcher. I had baseball dreams, too, but they were different from his. I wanted to make friends in my new town where, for the first time, the inner Marthlete could confidently emerge. I had a — have a heart murmur — and in high Colorado I wasn’t (as a kid) allowed to run. But in sea-level Bellevue, Nebraska, I was free. I’d learned that the neighbor kids played softball (in our yards) and I wanted them to like me. Naturally. No one wants to be last pick. I realized the best way to make friends was to hit home runs. Striking out had the opposite effect.

I spent a summer hitting balls out of the yard. I threw them up in the air and hit them, hour after hour. When my dad got home from work, he threw balls for me to catch. We decided I would play center field. Center field in my yard was the very edge. Many of the yards weren’t fenced, so it was just one long string of open lawns with invisible boundaries that we DID NOT CROSS WITHOUT PERMISSION. It was a military town and, therefore, a military neighborhood, so many neighbors were just referred to by rank. To the south lived “the Captain.” To the east, “the Sergeant.” It was a good system because that’s how they wanted kids to refer to them. No “Mr. Bond” or “Mrs. Pumphrey.”

My dreams of growing up to be Willie Mays were thwarted by reality. How often does that happen? First, Willie Mays was Willie Mays, so the position was permanently filled. Second, I am female. Even when our dreams don’t come true — or can’t — we still get something, and my moment came. It was this. (From a post I wrote some time back, “…a Good Memory from Childhood“)

“My dad was ill with MS and not getting better. I knew he would not get better. I went to the VA hospital with him one afternoon and I know he got bad news from what he told me. When I got home, I had to get ready for my softball game. I lived for baseball, but this was the best we had because we were girls. I played center field. Most of the other girls couldn’t play very well so no one ever hit the ball out where I was. I stood in the sunlight sucking on my glove. Then I saw my mom and dad had come to the game. They were setting up a chair under a tree for my dad. My team was up. I hit one home run after another — six in all — just in that one inning because my dad was there and he was watching the game. The pitcher started rolling the ball over the plate, trying to walk me, the only way they’d ever get up to bat again. When we were finally out and I went back out to field nothing, my mom and dad left.”

To a kid a yard is a world. To a gardener, too, I think, and to my dogs, and to many of us over the past year our yards have taken on a different significance. As always, mine is pretty ugly, but my “team” isn’t much for helping me maintain it. It’s getting to be time to organize grow pots and such like. I always do this FAR too early considering that plants cannot go outside into the yard until June 1. I was wondering last night about this year’s Scarlet Emperor Beans and who they will be this year. I don’t know. Many of the emperors of song and story were pretty awful people, so I imagine they will, again, be poets. But from where?

Heard this in the car on the way to the store yesterday (and sang along). ❤ I still love baseball. One of the great things about living in San Diego was going to Padres Games in their stadium downtown.


17 thoughts on ““Stay in the yard!!!!”

  1. Yeah, Petco is a great stadium. I’ve enjoyed it many times. Saw Pedro Martinez pitch there. He was a man among boys. Will never forget it.

  2. I think you made your Dad proud! I was just writing about our yard the other day, thinking back to Sundays when all the stores were closed and families spent those days together. I think yards just might be the keepers of memories.

  3. In our neighborhood, there were no boundaries. Where necessary, we crawled through hedges. Games of hide-and-go-seek (the “go” was part of that phrase where I grew up) or kick the can spread far and wide. We ate wild apples in the vacant lot, where we also buried treasures. Everyone was “Mr” or “Mrs”. (Even the school janitor, who some kids called “Pete” or “Mr Pete”, was “Mr Morehouse” to me. He deserved no less respect due to his job.)

  4. Childhood games were the best – Mr. Howard and his son Scotty lived across the street and they had a huge double lot. We were forever playing ball. Mr. Howard was all time pitcher. I was a “switch hitter” and didn’t understand what that meant. It was only later when in gym and we played whiffle ball that I learned that my ability to hit left or right handed was a cause of consternation to the other team… Later it was kickball and then tetherball. Neither of which saw me as a star player. However I excelled at jacks – even with little hands! I love that you were able to make your dad proud!!

  5. Loved this post! What a special memory of baseball and your brother – and then your parents. They came to watch you! And all those home runs! ❤️ I played baseball with the neighborhood kids – mostly boys, but I held my own. We played in the street in front of our house. Marked off bases with chalk or used rocks or something like that. But those backyards were our own little fields of dreams, weren’t they? Kickball, hide and seek, spud (did you play that?), tag and such. I went back years later and the backyard of the house we lived in until I was 11 looked SO tiny. And I remembered it as BIG.

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