A Jagged Smile of my Own

May 5, 2013
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A Jagged Smile Of My Own

The lights illuminate a field with brown and orange dirt and the green grass beyond. The dry summer heat has cooled down now that the sun has gone. The high fence towers behind me and people sit and stare as they mill about in the darker premises. The loose dirt sifts through my fingers and crunches under my cleats. My nose is familiar with the scent of this kind of sanctuary. It’s not the first time I have been at a place just like this and it’s funny how each one is the same, the ninety foot bases, the green outfield, the white lines, but they are different in that each has a specific feel and mood they present. Plastic catcher’s gear crinkles as my knees move in my stance. I look out across the new field, see my new teammates, my new coach, but there has always been one consistent teammate, and one constant coach in my life. They are not on the field with me, but they are there. My brother. My dad. I look into the stands and I meet their smiles with a jagged smile of my own. The first pitch is thrown and the familiar sound of the ball hitting the mit echoes in my head.

Imagine, if you will, a smaller, cuter me (I know it’s hard to do considering now). My skin is tanned from playing outside in the sun all day, and brown, earth colored hair rests upon my head and blows in the wind that sweeps through the woods and across the meadows of hay. Green eyes like the color of the fresh cut summer grass seem to have a smile of their own. As I play in the circular yard surrounded by gardens of corn and in the waist high tall grass full of flowers, I smile and laugh revealing that a few of my white teeth are missing. Big cute ears protrude out of the side of my head and a soft round face has apple red cheeks and a big nose. Inherited from the dad’s side are my broad shoulders which are bony and small. Because shoes are confining and overrated, dirty calloused feet run over the rock and grass. My knees are cut and grass stained from a long day’s play so far, and my tiny legs propel my body quickly to whichever destination decided upon. My little hand fits inside a leather glove, still rich with that new leather smell, and the other picks up a ball that is almost too big for it. My lean arms throw the ball into my father’s glove, a jagged smile stretches from big ear to big ear.

It seems like forever ago. We used to play baseball together in the backyard. My dad would hit balls and Nate and I would field them. We would play a mini game and somehow we always won. I think back to being a kid and how happy and carefree I was. It is funny how we grow older and things change, but I can still remember the feeling of being a kid like it was yesterday.
In the backyard, the sun showers its warm rays upon the cool, lush, green lawn. The smell of fresh cut alfalfa and grass is sweet and intoxicating as it fills the nostrils. Two dogs roll in the grass and play, birds sing and fly overhead. The soft grass and ground are dug into by barefeet and toes, an invigorating experience. The blue sky is streaked with thin white clouds. The screen door swings open with that familiar sound and my mom comes out to shake the rugs, but really she came out to watch us. My hand recognizes the familiar leather of my glove, which conforms to my hand perfectly. The fwaappp echoes out as the ball hits the glove and my fingers claw around the red laces of the old, scratched, brown stained ball. My arm slices through the air and the ball is released and soars until fwaappp it hits my dad’s glove. A jagged smile stretches across my face. My dad hits a grounder. I study the memory, he looks so much younger, livelier, maybe even happier. I listen to his hearty laugh. I look at his smile and think of how I see that smile less and less. Is it my fault? I wonder. I turn my gaze to my brother, something hurts inside me. He is so young and innocent. He doesn’t know what lies in the years ahead for him. I feel it deep in my chest. I wish I could say something. Tell him how much I love him and how much he means to me. But I can’t. It’s only a memory. Nate snags the grounder and throws it hard back to my dad. I remember wishing I could throw as hard as he could. The next hit sends the ball flying high up into the sky. Nate calls it, and I back him up like a good teammate should.
The sun illuminates the sky with fantastic colors of gold, orange, pink, and yellow as it sinks into the horizon behind the tree line. It’s the last inning of the game in the backyard and we are tied with two outs and the bases loaded, might as well have been game seven of the World Series. It was all on the line. My dad tosses the ball up and the bat makes contact. A pop up. To me. I don’t even have to think, my legs automatically move. My eyes are focused as my legs hurl me towards the ball. I’m not going to make it. I have to dive. I spring for the ball, glove extended. My eyes shut as I hit the ground and glide across it. I peek into the small glove, afraid to see the result. A grass and dirt stained ball. We won. I jump up and show the ball, my dad laughs and smiles and Nate throws his glove in the air in excitement. My mom calls for dinner and we all start to walk inside together. Nate puts his arm around me and says, “Good job Ben, great catch!” and a jagged smile stretches across my face from big ear to big ear.
I am much older, but sometimes “little me” shows up every now and then. Being young I did not realize what all it would mean to me. It’s good to hang on to youth and cherish the time with people, especially the people you love. It was simply a game back then, time spent with my dad and brother in the yard just having fun. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t know those countless hours in the backyard with them would be one of my favorite memories. Things get serious and less like those days as I grow older, but when they do I pick up my ball and glove, and head back to the yard. And when it’s time to go inside, I smile as I walk beside my brother and make sure to put my arm around him too.

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