Written by Melpomene.
We arrived in a swirl of dust and dirt, dodging uniformed bodies and flying missiles alike, as we searched for our designated position. It was hot and miserable, swarms of gnats hovered in the stagnant air and cries and calls resonated across the landscape. We had definitely found the ballpark.
Groups of girls, from six year-olds to teenagers, wandered aimlessly across the dirt road that lead back to the fields, their uniforms bright in the early summer sun. Balls were lobbed over the fence, missed by anxious gloved players and desperately avoided by innocent passers-by.
“Does your insurance cover dents from flying softballs?” I asked Patricia as we pulled onto the grass where we were to park. Her only response was a glare.
As Shelli grabbed her bag and jogged across the dusty road toward her teammates, the first order of business was to get Tryst to a restroom. We lucked out, amid swarming masses of softball players and equally large groups of parents and other family members, we discovered the restrooms. Then came the hardest part.
Tryst is five. He’s at that age when he desperately wants to be grown up but can’t quite make himself do all the things he feels a “big boy” should be able to do.
I waited outside the cinderblock building with him as he decided which side he would enter: the men’s or the ladies’. To enter the door on the right would be a statement of independence, Mommy wouldn’t be able to accompany him. To enter the door on the left would be safer and more comfortable because if something happened to frighten him, Mommy would be able to rescue him. There were beetles in the men’s room and he worried over the possibility there might be more in the ladies’.
In the end, he decided he didn’t really need to go to the restroom that badly. He could wait until we got home.
We located the right field amid the four or five at the park and then figured out which side Shelli’s team would be for the evening, the home team. Of course both teams of girls were from Hays County, both were essentially the “home team” but Shelli’s would be the one in the home dugout whose bleachers would give us a lovely and unpleasantly direct view of the setting sun in all its brilliance.
After wandering to the concessions stand, we settled on the bleachers with sodas and nachos and waited for the game to start. I don’t know if it’s the same in all parts of the country, but when you attend a sporting event in Texas, you eat stale tortilla chips with canned cheese sauce and jalapenos. They usually taste awful, but it’s tradition.
As we waited for game time, it was discovered that somehow the concessions people had failed to bring the game balls. A softball game without balls? That might have been safer all around. Shelli’s coach sent his wife to their car to retrieve their team’s practice balls and all was on the right track again.
Not long after we had taken our seats on the bleachers, the first pitch was out… then the second. We all heard the impact and then watched as the umpire, an attractive young man, took three steps back from the plate, called the pitch a ball, and fell to his knees in the dirt as a collective groan filled the bleachers. The girl who was playing catcher needed a little more practice.
Once he finally regained his feet, his pride tattered beyond help, we cheered him as he returned behind home plate and I laughed as I watched him crouch down behind the catcher, his hands held protectively in front of him.
The score was four to nothing for the home team when Tryst looked up at me and asked if it was going to rain. I had been watching the gray clouds sail across the sky ever since the second inning but was relatively sure the storm would go around us, I even voiced this opinion to my aunt who was seated next to me. Two minutes later, the sky opened up and I have never seen a field clear so quickly. We were grateful the bleachers were covered since it protected us not only from wild fly balls but also from the pelting rain.
It rained hard for several minutes and the younger girl’s teams on the field behind us called their game for inclement weather. We watched the umpires as we huddled under the covered bleachers, trying to find a place to stand where the blowing rain wouldn’t drench us.
The sound of the heavy rain on the metal covering terrified Tryst and he was up in my arms in a flash. His “Mama Kitty” and I tried to reassure him that it was just the rain on the roof above us but he was beyond caring, not interested in our recollections of Granny and Grumpy's tin-roofed house.
After almost ten minutes of pouring rain, the umpires congregated and called the game, both teams dashed out into the soaked field to quickly brush hands and return to the dugouts for their bags and drinks. When they filed out of the dugout the rain slacked off and Tryst and I made a mad dash for the car, Patricia and Shelli could catch up.
With Shelli’s equipment stowed in the trunk and all passengers secured, we waited for our chance to pull out into the steady stream of vehicles and watched the rain get heavier again.
“I hope it’s not raining too hard at home,“ Patricia said, looking up at the dark clouds. “I’d hate to miss our walk tonight.”
We had started walking a week before, each evening going around her neighborhood to get in a little exercise. “Maybe we could just walk around the block several times but stay close to home in case it decides to douse us,” I suggested.
Patricia nodded and chuckled a mere seven minutes later as we pulled into the neighborhood and spied dry streets and empty gutters.