Not one strike.
Even one and you could walk out of here with your head held high.
But the kind of failure you experienced today is a real chin-dropper.
Can’t argue with that.
Here’s a hot dog.
I would judge you, but we both know an enjoyment of relish indicates sociopathic tendencies.
You can be nice to puppies all you want, but slathering relish on a perfectly good wiener means I’ll probably have to have a therapist examine you before you reach adulthood just to make sure you don’t wind up stacking bodies under a porch. Just because you’re a girl, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a serial killer. Girls can be anything. Even lunatics.
Not one laugh?
You love when I joke about you potentially being demented?
Today was difficult.
I know that.
That’s why I don’t mind sitting here with you among all this…dirt.
Yes, it’s baseball dirt, but that just makes it patriotic filth.
I told your father you needed another ten minutes.
Now, you know and I know that you’re going to need more than ten minutes. A loss like this--It craters the insides. That, I know.
Don’t forget. Your mother used to be a tennis star.
Up every Saturday and Sunday at dawn practicing with Martina Mashavasovic, the scariest coach in Pittsburgh. She was determined to make me a star, and I blew it at regionals when I threw that racket into the stands and knocked Martina’s husband unconscious. Poor Petrov. He used to love coming to matches, but never again after that. No matter how many edible arrangements my parents sent Martina, she refused to coach me again. I became persona non grata, and at the age of eleven, I was convinced life had ceased to follow its rightful path.
That’s why I was so relieved when you showed no interest in whacking those fuzzy greens. The day your father took your little two-year-old self to the park and returned to inform me that you had crawled onto the baseball field and cried upon being taken away, I was overjoyed. Baseball. So different from tennis, but similar enough wherein I could feel my DNA was not completely absent in you. No necessity for a personal coach--let alone a Romanian with a bad temper and gold tooth that she’d pop out and throw on the ground whenever she was teed up.
No, your father was going to coach you. Sitting here now, I’m not sure that was the best idea. He doesn’t have the required toughness that you need in an athletic advisor. He doesn’t raise his voice and he doesn’t inspire. All his speeches sound like discount greeting cards. Gives you a handful of words and you fill in the rest. Between you and me, I do wonder what you could have become with some urgency behind you.
One thing I knew for sure--
You and me under a spotlight is like an ant under a magnifying glass. We can scurry, but eventually, the heat’ll catch up to us, won’t it?
I saw you up here on the mound today and my heart broke before the game even started. That’s the thing about being a mother, you feel the hurt before you have a reason to and then when you’re given a reason you’re stupid enough to think it won’t hurt as bad, because you were expecting it. Preparing for it. But nobody can prepare for watching their kid deflate the way you did. Your shoulders going from tense to tepid. Your anger subsiding into despondency. The way you started swallowing your gum instead of spitting it out. I witnessed you shedding your childhood today when you should have had a few years left of it. I suppose we don’t get to choose when that happens--you or me. Mine cracked open the day my racket hit Mr. Mashavasovic in the head. You’re sitting here on this mound thinking all you’re doing is playing back the game in the bursts you remember of it.
But that’s not really what you’re doing.
What you’re really doing is grabbing at your before time. The time of bedtimes and story times and time for school and time to get ready because we’re going to the field in a bit and boy oh boy are you going to shine, my love.
I heard your father say that last part right before he hustled you into the Subaru. I knew what was coming next. Didn’t take a crystal ball or one made out of green fuzz. You’re my daughter in all the best ways and all the ways I wish I could take back. How I chew my nails. How I roll my “r”s. How I can’t freeze the seconds when I need to so I can walk up onto a baseball mound and whisper in my daughter’s ear that if she were to lose every game and match in every sport and recreation from now until the end of time, I could never be disappointed in her.
Bet I could have used that last one today.
When I fled the tennis court that fateful day, my father was waiting for me in the parking lot. I careened into the passenger seat of his pick-up and became nothing more than a pile of tears in a pair of white shorts. My father sat there with me while I wailed--helping to drown me out by turning his radio up as high as it would go. To this day, when I hear “Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl” my eyes well up and I can’t catch my breath.
Muscle memory is wild, isn’t it?
My father told me years later that he wanted to do something for me, but he didn’t know what to do, so all he did was…sit.
Little did he know, that was exactly what I needed.
Well, that’s not true.
I needed someone to explain to me that time is a flat circle and that there were multiple universes where I didn’t throw my racket or give Petrov a concussion and universes where I was a champ and some where I was the best in the world and some universes where I parlayed that talent into a political career where I ran for President and lost to a man named Timmy who made his fortune building condominiums on indigenous burial grounds.
Unfortunately, your grandfather didn’t subscribe to theories about time and space, so all he could offer was his presence and the musical stylings of Looking Glass.
You want me to play “Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl” on my phone?
We can sing along to the “Doo doo doo”s.
Or we can just sit.
We can sit as long as you want.
For ten minutes or so before your father starts honking his horn.
Then, when you’re ready--
We’ll make our way home.