Starting my fifty weeks of adventures with batting cages may seem like I was dipping my toe in fun instead of barging through the door and announcing my arrival. It is safe, close to home, easy to understand, and the guy working the counter is cute. It checked all the boxes. What I didn’t realise at the time is how much those qualities had been defining my life for the last sixteen years as a stay-at-home parent. Cute guy notwithstanding–although our son is quite a looker.
I’ve been home with our children for the last sixteen years. Every day I am in charge of safety, making sure I knew where our kids are, and making instructions as straightforward as possible to not allow for teen interpretation. I’ve been lobbing it in so the batter feels good about themselves and can make a tremendous hit in the world. My kids are the batters here, try to keep up.
But Kristine, isn’t it just a batting cage? Why are you so corny and annoying about the experience?
It may seem like batting cages is just plain fun. Trust me, it is. But it is also symbolic of who I started out as. Fun. Yeah, but there is more.
Baseball was very much a part of my childhood. I walked by the Balsam Pits every day to and from school, and there was always someone throwing a ball around those diamonds, eating spits, enjoying the freshly mowed grounds, and getting covered in the cleanest dirt you could bring home on jeans without your parents getting angry.
Our single father coached my brother at the Pits. I was the team manager, which meant I got to sit near my dad. I eventually graduated to concessions girl counting jujubes because younger boys are annoying and my dad was tired of hearing me complain about their spitting.
Baseball season was fun. Always. It wasn’t the games so much as it was the number of people who showed up just to watch. You didn’t have to have anyone you knew in the game to enjoy the sun from the hillside and the crack of the bat that signified school was out. It was outdoors, neighbours, laughter, cheering, and smiles. Parents were proud and consoling; girls and boys were flirting; everyone shared popcorn and jujubes without knowing about sanitizer.
When I go by the Balsam Pits today, there are no games. The grounds are mowed but never trodden. No slides into home, no fly balls into the neighbour’s garden, no rousing cheers signifying something marvellous was happening, and no jujubes at the boarded concession. Now The Pits are used for smoking, after-school fights, and letting your dog run around off-leash while you check your phone. It is sad. Baseball is supposed to be happy.
But baseball has kind-of died. Not a painful, sudden death. Instead, the slow and steady decline of a prolonged illness. It is not a terminal diagnosis, but there is real suffering, and it is visible.
Setting foot in the batting cages felt like reviving the dead or going into remission. Wow, that sounds deep, but bear with me. The thrill of holding the bat and taking control. The rush as you know you nailed it. The pain when you just missed and the shock rang through your whole body. I may have taken this analogy too far.
I swear I could smell the freshly mown childhood, the sweet treat of summer candy and popcorn, and the heat on my face when a cute boy caught my eye, I mean from the sun without SPF. I had no idea how much I identified with baseball until the day I stepped into that cage. It represented time with my dad and brother, shared excitement, full days in the sun, dirt, sweat, and hard work. We would fall exhausted after those days at the Pits, and it felt terrific.
Starting safe and close to home is my childhood. The Pits are walking distance from where I grew up, and there was always a neighbourhood parent there to play catch. It was safe. It was home.
Seeing those grounds now, I know I can’t rely on my safe, easy plan because the world changes whether we want it to or not. I need to break that bat and hit one out of the park so that I can play in the same game as my kids. I want to be their coach and show them how to enjoy the big show that will be their lives away from home.
I want to hit being fifty out of the park. I want to nail sixty, seventy, eighty and one hundred too. Grand slams should be my daily goal. If I’m going to write, then fucking write. If I am going to cook dinner, then be badass about it. If I am going to parent those kids right out of the house, then, dammit, that is what I’ll do.
My Turning 50 Like a Boss Tip for this week: Hit everything you do out of the park.
Watch me do it:
Next week I try to teach my old dog a new trick. Wish me luck.