I should have brought my jacket.
This thought runs through my head over and over again as I drag my chair another 10 feet into the sun-bathed section of grass. I started out sitting beyond the fence in center field; I’ll be close to the third base line before the end of the game. I don’t think I ever noticed how quickly the sun sets until today.
Meanwhile, my 11-year-old and 5-year-old, Matthew and Colin, are running around in the field behind me, throwing and kicking a ball around that we had to drive back to the house to get. 11-year-old. Just yesterday, Matthew was 10, but today is his birthday. In the car, I tell him that the weather was a lot like today on the day he was born—bright and sunny, but cool in the shade, mid 60s. Immediately Colin asks what the weather was like on the day he was born. When I tell my husband this later, he rolls his eyes and smiles. Colin, as the youngest, needs to be part of every and any conversation.
But today is Matthew’s day. When I picked the boys up from school earlier, it was the first time I’d seen him all day since I leave before anyone wakes up in the morning. When I wished him happy birthday as he hopped into the car, he offered a sheepish smile. He’s definitely moving into the don’t embarrass me, Mom, phase. I sneak a peak at his feet; he’s wearing the new sneakers my husband bought for him for his birthday. Red and black Air Jordans. I guess vintage, as it usually happens, is back in style. Later tonight, he’ll get the Lego set he’s been eyeing for the last few months.
Because it’s his birthday, we stop to get milkshakes before heading home and then out for his brother Toby’s baseball game, but now I’m regretting it. I should have gone with a warm cup of coffee. I don’t think Colin and Matthew feel cold at all, the way they’re running around, making up the rules to their game as they go. I glance up and down from my book and back to the game. Toby has already struck out twice. It’s clear the way he shifts in the batter box that he’s afraid of the ball. A week or so ago, he got hit by a pitch—it’s the first year of kid pitch—and I don’t think he’s fully recovered.
I feel for him. I remember my early days playing softball and being constantly afraid that the ball was going to hit me. It finally did, too, when the second baseman threw the ball to me at the same time the third baseman threw a ball to me. I was playing first base, and our team was warming up just before the first game of the season. The ball hit me right on my right cheekbone. I walked around for a week with a black eye and softball stitch marks etched onto my cheek (as if freshman year at a new school wasn’t already awkward enough).
A cold breeze passes through my thin sweater. I look down to notice the left side of my chair planted firmly in the shade, again. I stand and drag my chair over another 10 feet. The game is almost over when one of the coaches jogs over to talk to my husband, who is playing catch with Matthew with a baseball they found in the grass (Matthew has a gift for finding stray baseballs). The coach smiles and waves hello to me, and then I overhear him mention Toby’s name to my husband. I only catch snippets of their conversation—”I’m told him that it’s okay if he strikes out…” and “We’ll do some more batting practice to get him comfortable again…” and “He’s just a little afraid right now…”
When I see Toby after the game, his eyes are red. Part of me wants to hug him and tell him it’s going to be okay—and it will be, of course—but I also know there are some things you learn to work out on your own as you grow up. Standing there, when it’s just you and the pitcher, is one of those times. Still, I put my arm around him and he doesn’t resist. And by the time we’re seated at the restaurant for his brother’s birthday dinner, he’s all smiles.