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Smile Because it Happened

May 20, 2016

I’m kind of losing it today. The Blue Devils lost their playoff game last night to Oak Ridge… a story I’ll tell later… which marks the end of baseball for us. And oh.. I just can’t tell you.. the bittersweet.  It was all so great, and now it’s over. I’m unbearably sad, but it was so great! I am definitely crying because it’s over, overwhelmed with a grief that I also recognize as full of happy. I can’t even begin to express the happy, as I’m all weepy and numbish.

I think there’s a platitude for this.

Well, it’s a Dr. Seuss quote, actually, so it’s a little more stomachable than a platitude. It goes:

don't cry

 

Which is kind of helping today. It’s helping me get to the oh, c’mon Kari, pull yourself together already part… which is good.

Deep breath.

I feel so lucky that Peter…our family…had such a thing as the baseball experience. It was a thread that ran through Peter’s whole childhood. He started at the beginning with T-ball and just rode it the whole way. It was a consistent, fun, worthwhile, constructive presence for just about all of his conscious, rememberable life.

I am grateful for all of it.. the structure, the community, the camaraderie. It provided Peter with an identity, a go-to, a landing spot. It taught him a ton about everything that you expect and want a team sport to teach you.

Of course.

And he would have been fine without it.. something else would have filled in…but I’m just glad we had it anyway. Because I love baseball. That sure worked out, didn’t it? Thank you stars.

I’m probably most proud of his perseverance.  That he remained engaged, that he was inspired to stay with it for all of those years. I am grateful beyond words that he formed deep friendships, a sense of belonging, and a strong sense of self.

Just holy shit. What more do we want for our kids?

Ok… so… some photos?  From the way back?

Here is Peter’s first T-Ball team, the Diamondbacks. It all starts with stretching (the focus started early!):

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His coach was.. oh dear.. I’ll have to look up his name… the nicest guy. He was excited and a little nervous because he’d never coached before. He recruited his dad to help, and they were very tender and caring with the boys. They both liked Peter (they liked all the kids) and they encouraged him so much and made it really fun. The coach’s kid was enthusiastic, but I don’t think he went beyond T-Ball.

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It’s amazing how you take kids who don’t know which way to run around the base paths and turn them into baseball players (sorta). But it all comes together.

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And that was the start. First game, five years old… and on his way.

This is one of the very first shots we ever got of Peter on the diamond (such as it is in T-ball). I love the finger’s out, the foot’s on the bag. He looks a bit uncertain.

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These (the below) were some of the last shots I got of him on the diamond. It’s now a little over TWELVE years later. A lifetime.

Hanging on the field before the game.. far more certain of himself:

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The above and below shots were taken during warm up for last night’s game. They are not the most spectacular shots, but they are relaxed and confident and infinitely comfortable…a profound contrast to the uncertainty and tentativeness of that first day.

What I do remember about those first days of T-ball was his eagerness. He was so thrilled to finally be officially on a baseball team, starting the baseball program. We/he didn’t have any view of the future, we could not have imagined that he’d ride it until the end, that he’d become a varsity pitcher on his high school team. But he did know he was very excited to be playing baseball. On a team. With rules. With other kids.

We’d been playing catch for years. I remember very clearly the careful tosses to his glove, only on the right side, so he’d experience success always and build his confidence. He loved it. I remember the feeling, very explicitly, of going across the street, lying in the grass, on our backs, looking up at blue sky, feeling warm air on our skin after a long winter, excited about being out there and playing spring catch. I don’t mean to sound too Rockwellian, and we didn’t always do this, but I have a very crisp memory of the times we did, knowing then that it was a special moment, a very precise moment in the larger baseball experience.

I am not exaggerating at all. He loved it. It was a perfect start. Every time, he had fun. His eagerness is what makes me cry now (for happy). T-ball, and the fun we had playing catch across the street, was so simple and such a sweet start on which to build.

And it did build!

I like this picture. It’s important to me because it’s taken at his last game as a varsity player, and also because he looks so quietly comfortable. Such a wonderful and sweet contrast to his T-ball pictures. So mature, so evolved, so grown up, so competent.

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At the end of the game, Dan held them for a very long time. Long meeting. I have no idea what all he said, what the other boys said, what the mood was. The parents, plenty emotional ourselves (senior parents, anyway) were dealing. I was in such a world. I was so overcome with the end, which I’d seen coming forever, but experiencing emotionally for weeks. A little tough to process.. simply because we were in a gaggle of parents, everyone handling the end/loss in their grown up ways, quite a range. Not quite sure how to receive our boys when they did, finally, come out.

One by one, some in pairs, they showed up. Quiet, not smiling, some trying to look settled in their feelings and strong. Finding Peter in the group felt almost desperate.. I was feeling so tender toward him, all of them, but especially Peter, hoping he was okay.

He offered a weak smile. We closed around him and started toward the car. And then he lost it. Not in a wracking sob kind of way, but he cried. He was caught off guard by the surge of emotion. He said he was “fine” until he saw us. He was uncomfortable with his tears and tried to shake them off, but they kept coming. We talked a little, said things like, “it was a great ride,” and “wish it could have kept going.” And who knows what else. Jim and I had come in separate cars, so Peter had to decide who he was going to ride home with.. he chose the crying parent.

We didn’t talk that much on the ride home, but we both sniffled a lot. I told him I was incredibly proud of him, so glad for the experience of baseball, so amazed and glad and impressed he went the distance. Said good things about his final season, how it was such a great note to end on.. things like that. He didn’t shrug me off or tell me to stop.

I’m sure as the days go on, especially the weeks, months and years, the baseball narrative will settle into its perfect elements. So many disappointments along the way, so many coulda beens and shoulda beens. But way way way overall, a fantastic, perfect thing. I’m insanely grateful for it all. As I said above… I reflect on his growth, his community of peers, our community of families, his skill building, the development of his athleticism, his identity as a baseball player, his safe landing in a supportive, camaraderie-filled place, the lessons, the opportunities, the friendships, the role models, the successes. He grew and developed in so many positive ways because of his experiences in baseball. And had so, so much fun at every step along the way.

It’s a total cliche. And it’s all absolutely the way it absolutely is.

So, yes, I am SO smiling because it happened.

And oh my god, I love him so much.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Responses to “Smile Because it Happened”

  1. Michael Ann Says:

    Aw… I would feel the same way. Truly. I have a picture of Jack crossing the street on his way to his last day of elementary school. He didn’t know I was taking it. I was so emotional that day. Whenever I look at that photo I feel sad again. It just IS.

  2. Karen Says:

    We can all relate to this as parents . Just saw my sons last Dance on stage, senior year in college. Thx for reminding me to smile because it happened. 😎 Cheers 🍷🍷


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