Monday, March 21, 2011

WOTD 12 - MITT

March.
Wet, windy, warm, unpredictable March.
The rumblings of life churn up the earth in my flower beds. If I pause to look when I go get the mail I find new lumps of newborn green pushing up through the winter-worn dirt. Crocuses have burst through the earth in the cement flower bed in the entrance to our neighborhood. Dafodils are hinting buttercream yellow at the top of their pregnant stems. Nights are crispy cold. We still use our down comforter on the bed. Days tickle us with hints of heat. Schoolchildren zip their jackets closed on the way to the bus in the morning, then leave them lying on the grass in the schoolyard at recess, destined for the Lost and Found. My car does not know whether to surrender to the heater of air conditioner. Every day is different. Every night is cool.

March.
My boys start to sniff, like puppies who can tell the neighbor is grilling. Their heads tip up, turning to the spanse of grass in the yard. The door between the kitchen and the garage slams shut and I know just what they are doing out there. They are shuffling around, digging through the mountains of stuff, the shavings of a season gone now left in piles beside our cars. They dig past the miscellany and find the bin of baseball supplies. Pull out their mitts and unwrap the shoelaces tied round them. Hard white balls are lifted from the pockets of their mitts. They toss them into the air, awakening the sleepy young boys they keep hidden the rest of the year, the ones who had cleaned and conditioned their mitts after fall ball last year; planted a good white baseball inside each leather pocket, the stitching on the ball infused with red dirt, the off-white leather stained with the oils of green grass from the summer past. They had strategically wrapped the mitts, balls planted inside, with old shoelaces to keep the shape through the winter.

Their hands pry the faded brown leather apart, like stiff new textbooks opened on the first day of school. They tuck the balls into the pockets of their jacket and sweatshirt then stick the mitts under their armpits, softening the chilled leather with the heat of their human furnaces. When the life returns to the glove, incubated there against their chests, they slip their hands inside and lift the soft warm mitts to their noses, inhaling the fragrance of hide and earth and sweat and pleasure – long deep breaths with more inhale than exhale. Dad slaps the button on the wall by the door. The garage door slides up on its metal rollers. The boys punch their fists into their gloves, talking boy talk as they move toward the grass, their legs gradually dipping lower then lower as they walk until the walk becomes a run. There is no plan stated. They know instinctively what to do. One stops, one runs further out. One hand dips into the pocket of his golf jacket. As soon as the younger one reaches the edge of the yard the elder one twists his torso. One leg rises before the other, steps out slightly as the right arm rises from behind, lays its elbow forward then flings the ball out across the green. Out below the blue, between the earth and the sky, spinning through that familiar space toward a woven pocket of leather. My boy’s left arm rises nonchalantly before his face and with a slight twist he presents the ball from the pocket of his mitt to his throwing hand. It’s a pattern the two repeat, then repeat again, until the sun has moved ten degrees across the hemisphere, until after they have removed their jacket and sweatshirt, until after the neighbor’s yard is mowed and trimmed. Long, long silent conversations on an early spring afternoon.

Father to son, son to dad. Back and forth and back again.

Old, old friendship re-kindled every spring.

Mitt.

4 comments:

  1. will insisted that we sing the baseball song in nursery yesterday. he doesn't like that i say "root, root, root for the pirates"! he prefers his own team. i have missed the cold hard bleachers and am anxious for the next generation to start up again this spring. little feet sticking out from under too long of t-shirts. baseball caps hung over the eyes and of course leather mitts in hand. "let's play ball!"

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  2. ...excuse me...that was libby not ann marie who commented. am must be signed into my computer. sorry.

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  3. My dad wrote our name on my mitt. The letters clear and plain in Dad's engineering hand. I loved that mitt, just my size and the smell of leather. He played catch with me, too. I didn't know the trick of putting it away like that, but I kept it - from seventh grade, through the vagabond years of college. And taught my kids to catch with it. Then it disappeared. I haven't seen it in twenty years, and even announced the loss of it over the pulpit. I suppose that something in my hopes that someday - should we do something so wild as clean out the garage? - the world might see fit to give that thing back to me. It will be full of spiders, old and cracked. But my dad's strong letters will still run down the side, and with a little oil, my hand will remember how to slide back in there. And maybe I'll teach Max to catch -

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  4. Funny, Libby - my grandmother taught me that song (may I say that I don't think she every handled a baseball in her life?) and she sang it, "Root, root-root for the Home Team." It never occurred to me to sing an actual team name in there.

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