She had seen many seasons’ come and go. The parameters of her world had shifted slightly: in some spots she had grown wider and in other spots let’s just say things weren’t as they once were. Over in the play area the shiny swings of yesteryears had given way first to a jingle-jim, and then to numerous play-apparatuses. Her boy first came there when he was a young curly haired youth. There was a sparkle in his eyes and a baseball glove on his small hand. She was always there waiting for him to come and run her bases, his best friend. And then in what seemed like a scene from “The Time Machine” the future was here. In a moment his whole life flashed before her the beauty, splendor, and the pain.
The park was beginning to bloom and several children were out flying kites they received in their Easter Baskets that morning. It was warm for late April and the smaller children were blowing bubbles and trying to catch them. The air was filled with squeals of excitement as bubbles filled the tot-lot. She sat over in the back corner of the park taking in all the excitement in the park. Her infield needed a little work and home plate was just a mound of dirt. But no one seemed to mind, they still came to play baseball.
The curly haired boy could hardly contain his excitement as he hopped across the park grass toward the baseball diamond. His left hand was nestled inside his father’s massive hand, and hanging from his right hand was a brand new baseball glove his father had given him for Easter. The glove was genuine leather and it was a little stiff. The boy’s father told him it would soften with time. The little boy said it smelted funny, and how come it had funny colored shoelaces?
The boy stood on the pile of dirt, which was her home plate, and his father tossed the baseball into his glove. The small boy squealed with delight, and there was a sparkle in his eye as he tried to throw the ball back to his father. His squeals of joy filled her heart with glee. She knew right then this was the beginning of a long friendship.
Their relationship had grown over the years; she could not believe he was fourteen, and playing in his first junior varsity baseball game. There he was out on the new diamond, ready to swing his bat. His dad was watching intently from her new bleachers that were erected that spring. The score was tied and the boy was nervous. He looked down at the ground and silently asked her for help. She had become his essence. His bat connected with the pitch, and the crack must have echoed all the way to the west coast. It was a home run! Everyone was standing and cheering for him and she was so proud of him.
He played baseball every summer at that diamond, loving it more each year. She remembered the day his dad said he was sorry this would be the last game he would see him play for a while. She didn’t understand until he came back the next day. He sat on the bench with his face in his hands and weep.
The boy closed his eyes and saw the cloud of dust that engulfed him the first time he slid into first base. He remembers the feeling every time he rounds the bases and heads for home. He remembers when they lost games he was always just grateful to have been able to play ball.
After awhile he pulled himself together and took one last run around her bases and then sat back down on the bench. Now he was telling her his beloved diamond he would be gone for several years. He was going west to college. She felt strange: dizzy with distress, but she could not even cry.
He proclaimed his love for her. He promised to be back in a few years to play upon her field again.
A few years turned into a decade. There were many who came and made her feel needed, but none were her boy. She longed to hear his voice and gaze up into his face. She remembers how sometimes in the winter he would come and awaken her by gently sweeping the snow off home plate. He would stand there tossing the ball up in the air, and it landing in that glove his Dad had given him. He would tell her he could hardly wait for baseball season to return. She loved those years.
Then she felt something. There he was! Her boy had turned into a man. But to her he would always be her boy.
Someone was with him. He was holding the hand of a woman and there was a ring on her left hand. He sat on the bench and told the women about that homerun that won the game. He told her about all the wonderful times he had spent playing ball on that diamond, and how much he loved being there. Then he and the women set out hand in hand around the bases him telling a story about each one. He told the woman about the first day his Dad had brought him there; and the new glove he had received that Easter. He told the woman one day he wanted to bring their son to play upon that field.
Another decade passes. One day over by the shiny new playscape, she sees him. He is there with the woman, and they have a toddler child with them. He is running and laughing with delight, and for a moment, she can feel the joy of past days.
Ten, twenty, thirty times she has fallen into winter slumber under a blanket of snow, and awoken to Robins’ singing in the spring. This year spring brought with it new baseball leagues. Senior leagues had been formed and it was the first game of the season. She knew he was coming because she had heard someone read his name on the roster. There he was, older with some gray in his hair, but he still has a sparkle in his eyes.
He stepped up to home plate and lifted his bat. Strike one; strike two, a prelude of things to come? He looked down quickly before the next pitch. The ball was over the plate. And then that bat and ball became one! The crack of the bat wasn’t as hard as it once was, and it took a little longer to round the bases, but he made it.
It was the bottom of the ninth, and he was on third. He looked hot. Suddenly with his hand clutched to his chest he fell to the ground. All she remembers is the paramedics putting him in the ambulance, and the distant sound of sirens taking her boy away. His game was over.
It was a gray overcast day as the hearse turned right, into the park’s driveway. He would have wanted one last ride through the park where the diamond was he loved so much. She was so heavy with sadness she did not know what to do.
Later that week his son returned with an urn. He sat down upon the bench for the home team. He was kicking around the dirt thinking about his father. Finally he regained his composer. Then he proceeded around each base, said a few words, and sprinkled some ashes.
Nine years later, the park was blooming and the children were out flying kites. It was warm for early April. The air was filled with squeals of joy as bubbles filled the tot-lot. Then she saw them coming across the park headed for home plate her boy’s son and a small child.
The curly haired boy could hardly contain his enthusiasm as he hopped across the grass toward the baseball diamond. His left hand was nestled inside his father’s massive hand, and hanging from his right hand was a well-worn baseball glove his father had just given him. The glove still smelled the same as it had when his Grandfather had given it to his father. The boy stood by home plate and his father tossed the ball into the glove. The small boy squealed with delight, and there was a sparkle in his eyes that she had seen before. She knew. Her boy was back!