Every year when the winter begins to wane and the ground begins to thaw and soften with cold, miserable rain showers, there inevitably follows the alluring smell of earth. It wafts upwards, subtly asserting its true nature, not dirt. Dirt is the stepchild of earth, stripped of nutrients, useful, but utilitarian–sterile. Earth is a veritable repository of goodness. A place for green things to live and prosper. Green things that God has given to nourish our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. Nothing makes me feel more solid, more safe, than a majestic, magnificent tree. Arms outstretched to the world, offering shelter, shade, respite. When I think of my childhood home, I think more often of the trees in my yard than spaces I actually inhabited. I love the smell of earth because it holds the promise of our Father whose grace and mercy are renewed again and again with every spring and every morning.
Then, before long… the intoxicating smell of cut grass. This has a more immediate association, one that leaves me lost in a whirl and wealth of memories that I could spend days–days–reliving them. Everywhere I looked this week, people were out mowing their lawns, and I’ve been breathing deeply. The first smell of cut grass gives me an irresistible urge to put on some cleats, grab my glove, and play some softball in the dirt. Just one whiff of cut grass intermingled with the earth and I am transported.
Softball has been a near constant in my life. A huge part of my way of relating to my mother was derived from my understanding of her as an extremely well-known, hard ass, weekend warrior of the softball field. I missed many a weekend and evening with my mom because she played ball. But it was a part of who she was. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that softball was ever part of my identity, I should not overlook what softball and summer have given me. In the dozens of teams that I’ve played on, coaches I’ve played for, teammates I’ve played with, and situations I’ve played through, I learned quite a bit about the kind of person I did or did not want to be. I would never want to be the kind of person for whom winning was everything. I would never want to be the kind of person who did something to embarrass my teammates. But I would never want to be the person who cost my team the game. I would want to be the person they could trust to make the play, make the right decision. I would want to be the person they could trust when things (anything) came down to the wire. I do want to be the person who cheers loudest from the bench even if I’m not in the game. I do want to be the kind of person who walks away satisfied with what I put forth, regardless of the outcome. Softball has taught me a great deal.
Softball has also given me a great deal. My best friend of 25 years and I forged our friendship on the softball diamond. How many 32 year olds do you know can say they’ve had the same best friend for 25 years? My husband and I met and fell in love on the softball diamond. It was the first thing we had in common and everything just took off from there. Three of my most significant relationships–my mom, my husband, and my best friend–have softball as the backdrop. Summer even brought me my first daughter–Little Miss G was born in August–the same weekend as the Men’s State Softball Tournament. John had his priorities straight and missed the entire tournament that year. And every year since then he has missed all the Saturday afternoon games, whether his team was playing or not, for her birthday parties.
I’m reflecting on all of this because tonight I feel as though I passed on a little bit of a legacy. Little Miss G had her first ever t-ball practice tonight. It was hysterical to watch. Let’s just say she played every position because she chased the ball down regardless of where it was hit. She is noticeably the smallest girl on the team (which is no surprise), but she’s also clearly the fastest, so even when she was standing near third and the ball was hit between second and first, she was the second girl to arrive at the ball, and she would throw herself on top of it or smother it with her glove so none of the other girls could get it. That’s my little go-getter. We’ll explain the concept of playing your own position once the coach gives them positions to play. Tonight it was just a batting practice defensive free-for-all. Whether or not she actually ends up liking softball really doesn’t matter to me at all. My only hope and prayer is that whatever her niche is, I hope she finds it. I hope she gets a great deal of self-confidence and self-satisfaction from it. And I hope it brings her the kinds of blessings summer and softball has brought me.
Batter up! PLAY BALL!!!