Game Three of the World Series is on television. I’m sitting outside on my porch with a cat in my lap. It’s chilly outside.
I’m watching a portable TV, rooting for the Atlanta Braves. And while I know I have been writing a lot about baseball lately, like most hapless Braves fans my age, I’ve been waiting over twenty years for this game.
Earlier, I set up the television on the porch with an extension cord so I could watch the game while grilling burgers. Old school. Because this is what the men from my childhood did.
They’d watch a ten-inch screen, outdoors, sip from longneck bottles, and grill fatty beef over charcoal briquettes.
To this day I don’t know why those men watched ballgames so intently. Baseball is essentially a kid’s game played by very rich twenty-year-olds and has no real bearing on the immediate future. But there you are.
Those old men sat on the porch to watch games and scream at the TV as though their health depended on it. Therefore, so must I.
No matter how old I get, why is it that I always feel like I’m imitating my parents? I once heard it said that we are all just thirteen years old, just trying to make our dad proud. I believe that.
Anyway, tonight I can hear the ballgame playing from the house next door, blaring through the thin mobile-home windows. My neighbor is an old woman who has two small dogs that resemble cotton balls with eyes.
These animals are currently yapping at a pitch that’s shrill enough to affect the migratory patterns of birds. This incessant yapping drowns out the televised game and adds a special touch to tonight’s World Series. A game which, in case I didn’t mention it, I have waited upwards of twenty years for.
ANNOUNCER: There’s the wind up…
NEIGHBOR’S DOG: Yap! Yap!
ANNOUNCER: Aannnnd the pitch…
DOG: Yap! Yap! Yap!
ANNOUNCER: Riley hits an infield—
DOG: YAP YAP YAP YAP YAP YAP YAP!
There are also other sounds happening in my neighborhood. Such as the sounds of children. It’s a little late for kids to be playing outside, but it’s a weekend and I’ve never known a kid who didn’t push his or her bedtime limits.
The sounds of their laughter carry across our street, interspersed with the sounds of their heated arguments.
Eventually, I hear someone’s mother yell their names, followed by: “Get in this house, right now, or so help me…!”
Sometimes I truly feel as though I am stuck in a perpetual October of my own childhood. Those formative years leave such an impact on you, you cannot forget them. There are some days when I feel like I never really grew up at all, almost as though adulthood is a dream.
My brain still feels the same as it did when I was thirteen years old, playing outside, pushing the boundaries of my bedtime to dangerous limits.
I can still hear the sounds of my mother shouting, “Get inside this house, right now, or so help me…!” Followed by a few expletives uttered under her breath.
We played outside when we were kids, rarely indoors. Not even during the rain did we stay inside. There were no video games in our era, no cellphones, no internet, no helicopter parenting, no gluten-free products.
No, our universe consisted solely of bicycles, basketballs, and mud. We knew every climbable oak in the woods. We stayed outside until our little-kid sweat soured and made us smell like the jayvee football team laundry bag.
And on evenings when we played neighborhood games of baseball, beneath a sherbet sunset, we played until dark so that none of us could see the ball careening toward our tender baby faces.
And this is how Lee Anniston lost his front two incisors. Also, that’s how I once got hit by a fastball in an anatomical region I will not name.
I’ll never forget the night I was hit by that fastpitch in that unnamed area. It was actually a pretty serious injury. After the frightening black bruises appeared, my mother took me to the doctor.
The doctor was an ancient man who wore a tweed suit and a pocketwatch fob. He looked at my bruised area and said, “Cheer up son, you can always adopt.”
Tonight, those olden times seem about six million miles behind me. Truthfully, I’m not sure when it all happened—when did I grow up? When did I start talking about my youth and making it sound more magical and carefree than it really was?
But then, storytelling is a rite of passage among those who age. A privilege. All aging humans do this. Therefore, so must I.
There’s no cure for aging, but if you ask me, baseball comes pretty close. Because every time I watch a ballgame, I’m still thirteen years old, just trying to make my dad proud.