The Wind Up
Is it Summertime or what?
Ahhhh summertime, schools are out and so are the kids, lawnmowers and lemonade and not a care in the world for an eight year old boy. The playground and its mammoth mulberry tree; that same tree dropping all those fruits; somehow escaping the gullets of mockingbirds and catbirds alike, but not before reeking their havoc on my shoes and my back as I slide through the backyard on them and land with a thud, more times than I care to admit.
Having a playground so close to home (you can't get much closer than your adjoining backyard) gave you an edge for all the days events around the neighborhood. You could shoot baskets and hear of soon to be gatherings or just listen to stories; who got in trouble because of this or that or cookout over here or there, always good to keep your ears open, cause it just might fill your stomach.
This summer coming had all the makings of being magical, our pool was almost opened, filling from the spigot and with a little skimming (of wayward mulberries) and some chlorine, we would soon be putting on our bathing suits.The cicadas were beginning their rousing chorus that morn, already a scorcher and humid, throw in the haze for a triple H. That was a just one of the normal days back in June of seventy two, a string of strange days was yet to come.
My brother was so happy, with his birthday coming in less than two weeks. He could hardly contain the excitement that was building inside, I was expecting him to literally burst like a shaken soda. He really wanted a Green Machine and if he got one, boy was I gonna be miffed. My Big Wheel was on its last leg, my big wheel on the Big Wheel had worn a hole in it and it was just no fun any more, clunk, clunk, clunk... no fun. But there were worse things that could happen...like rain and more rain and come on already, more RAIN! Yup, that was how June of 1972 was goin down in Maryland and that rain was keeping those temperatures way down too, they (the weathermen) were talking about temps going down into the forties for a low, Brrrrr.
Fun in the Sun
We were determined to get outside as often and for as long a time as we could during those summer vacation months and that rain, drizzle, cold nor fog was going to hold us back. So day after day, out we would march and in we would come, soaked, dripping and shivering, but compared to staying inside playing bored games, there was no comparison. When our big break in the weather finally came; not only were my brother and I ready to go, but the whole darn neighborhood of kids were out and assembling on what we called "The Ball field."
Now this ball field, was not a ball field to the untrained eye at all, in fact it looked to be a circle, an island of grass surrounded by asphalt roads, but us kids knew better. Give a kid a ball and a bat, within say about 300 feet of a window and you can guess what happens. You could say the grown-ups were not as big of fans of softball as were us kids, but we were bored and so we ignored all previous warnings of not playing in that (circle) ball field. As we assembled on the field, I was thinking we are not going to be able to play, in spite of the beautiful blue and sunny skies I kept thinking the grownups would stop us. Perhaps they, the grownups, were just as bored and had cabin fever like us kids and decided if the kids were going out to play, that all would be well and they could have a moment alone to themselves to do as they pleased. Except for us kids, there appeared to be no one else around.
The Ball field
Remember back when, those times of choosing, for sides that is. Those were the days, the days when you we felt your talent level and thankfully I wasn't too poor a player. Our teams were very diverse, they included boys and girls; Caucasians, Hispanics and African-Americans. As kids and later hopefully all of us as adults, we were only interested in having fun together and not concerned with skin color or sex.
So there we were and as a group, we chose lots, more like sticks, longest two sticks winning and with that we realized democracy and had our captains. Now time for team choosing and this one here and so and so there, until the last two and thankfully for them and us, one went there and the other here and the coin flip, for first at bat.
We began with Cheryl Connell pitching and as I watched Danny Devine at the plate and our own team behind him. I had a pre-conceived notion, we were not going to get too far on this at bat. Just then and to my surprise, Danny's full swing resulted in a bunt and got him aboard first base, how about that oh ye of little faith.
Next up was Roberto and he and I shared the same team and a brother by the same name, Michael, another similarity as is was our name, Robert/o. Well Roberto got up there, dug in his footing, took his check swings and then the pitch, fast, hard and inside, provoking a strike. Cheryl was quite a good pitcher, her fastball, underhand and naturally breaking down and in fooled many of us and had this not been softball and us being kids, I could imagine her being Nolan Ryan or Jim Palmer. Roberto stood firmly near the make-shift plate, even with Cheryl's wickedly breaking and sinking fastball. The perseverance paid off well, Roberto took that ball outside of the park, or to the untrained eye, to the intersection of Edlemar and Primrose. Danny scores and Roberto scores again leaving us ahead of Cheryl's team two zip.
Look in the sky, what's that a bird...
The wind up and the pitch
I was next at bat and Cheryl's streak of bad luck continued, I made mine a double, but I became stranded, as we did not score again that inning. Our pitcher, who went by the name Goofy, did not fare any better Than did Cheryl. His pitching was all over the place, but the batters were able to connect at each at bat, they ran through the line-up and by the time first inning was over, we were down by six, their eight to our two.
The next two innings were not much better for us, but we were all unprepared for the bottom of the third!
Bottom of the third
It has been almost forty years now, but I can never forget that moment or the others that would soon follow. Goofy was going back to the mound and I was picking up Susan's glove to put on, we shared gloves back then, slipping my hand inside I felt my hand was being immersed as into warm water, poor Susie had some sweaty palms and now I would be sharing that glove and ...Yuck, Girl germs!
As we all settled into our defensive roles, the time had come for my little brother to visit the plate. We watched a strike go by and then another, then I heard a god awful noise. Looking above and behind my brother and to the left, I saw what I can never forget, angry sky! It looked extremely bruised and smarted, green and black with flashes of pain. It roared onward and toward us, screaming out it's shrill whistle like an out of control freight train.
Everybody run I screamed and pointed! My brother and some others, just stopped and stared, but I could see this thing coming fast. Our house was only about two blocks away, but it might has well have been a mile.My brother had brought his bike, so up on it he hopped and I alongside of him began to run, we almost made it to our house. The wind overtook us and my brother, with his bike, began to rise into the air. While this was going on, I was screaming, "let go of the bike, let go of the bike!"
Thankfully, we had made it as far as the playground next our house. The very tall fence surrounding the playground, made a handy hold for us to 'walk the fence' to our own backyard's fence. With a bit of labor and a lot of coaxing, I helped my brother and myself over the last hurdle. Finally, my brother let go of that bike and we bolted for the back door!
Mother Nature's Curve Ball
And the call at the plate...SAFE!
When we threw open the back door and it literally ripped slightly apart from the door jamb, we saw mom. My mothers face was a look of horror, she had most likely went into a panic, for wonder of the safety of her two boys. My other siblings, all three girls, had decided to stay home, doing whatever girls do at that age and so at least my mother had not become raving lunatic, with worry of us all, as she had their company to help her keep in check.
Just when I headed towards the window to check out the action out of doors, my mom just about leaped to grab my arm, shouting "stay away from the windows!"
Even though I could not stand next to the large bay window, I could see the house across the street and looking at the roof, I watched as shingles were ripped off by handfuls and then patches, incredible.
With the awesome display of power outside and now with my mother's relative calm in the midst of this fury, I knew at least then and with my family, we had made it home safe!