Thursday, April 15, 2010
Balls and Bats
Summer cometh - I don't think there is anything more pleasant than this transition between Spring and Summer... unless you count the smooth, subtle, submission of Summer into Fall. We'll get to that one another time because right now I'm thinking of evenings spent playing up on First Street, or as we called it "Front Street" ... Our neighborhood, as I said in an earlier post, was a mill village. It was laid out in somewhat of a capital B laid sideways. There was one long, main street that was paved, that ran the length of the neighborhood and ended at any one of several businesses that took up residence there. Off of this main road, ran two sandy dirt streets, forming the cup of the B and that was intersected by another sandy road. We lived on 3rd street, or to be postally correct, Collier Avenue. The street between us and First Street, or Lincoln Avenue (Postally correct) was called 2nd Street. The other half of the neighborhood probably also had its own postally christened names but we never thought to ask what they were. All that mattered was that our friends lived either on our side, or on that side, and nothing but a huge field of grass lay between the two sections of the neighborhood. Front Street was paved, gray pebbly asphalt providing a rather rough surface for skates, but a marvelous hiss for bicycle tires. Across the street from the houses was a pallet manufacturing facility, and woods. There were street lights too. And where there are woods, and street lights, there are going to be moths and bugs that fly at night, and where those are, there are going to be bats. Evenings like this, after homework was done, and supper had been had, when the heat of the day was but a memory and a warmth that was embedded in the pavement, we kids would gather up on Front Street and we'd play ball. Not ordinary ball, but a ball that was a half of a rubber ball. We didn't intend that, but we weren't wealthy either, and when a rubber ball had lived a long full life as a round thing, it often seperated, and left two halves. Thanks to the pallet manufacturer, and a gap in the fence that acted as a barrier for would be adventurers (us), we never lacked for wood slats to pop that half ball all over that street. There was never any rule, no one kept score, and we didn't really have teams. Rita, Danny, Jo, Louise, Sherry, Tammy, myself, Thomas, occasionally Marsha, and one or two others from the neighborhood came out and faced off with one intent - fun. We sort of divided up, yes, but before the game was over, we were just all over the street, whacking the ball, laughing, falling down, doubled over with laughter when the ball managed to hop on edge and go zinging off in some crazy fashion into one of the players. And when we were finally too tired to swing a pine slat, and when no one wanted to go into the empty lot to get the ball because of the stickers (sand spurs), we'd sit along the edge of the road in the soft sand and we'd watch the bats who'd come out when the street lights came on and the moths flew like winged acrobats around the lights. They swooped, and the bats swooped. They spiraled and the bats zipped and zoomed right up after them. It was an incredible aerial show, and we never tired of watching them. You could hear tiny squeaks, but you never heard the wings. Occasionally we'd toss a small rock up high enough to get the attention of a bat flying by, and it would dive at it, but even without being able to see it, it knew it wasn't something to eat and the pebble would fall back to the ground. Times were so simple then. I guess that kids today reading something like this would find it incredibly boring and they'd wonder how in the world we managed to grow up without a computer, or video games, or motorized scooters, 4-wheelers, and all of the 'toys' kids have today. We grew up with skinned knees, mosquito bites, bruised elbows and noses, and our two wheelers were powered by two feet. We grew up knowing how to entertain ourselves because we had to. And we learned about the world around us, in a personal, hands-on kind of way. And when the day was finished and we were tired, we'd hear Mama calling from the front porch for us to come home and take a bath and get ready for bed... I wouldn't take anything for the memories of a group of kids, playing under streetlights, savoring every second of this magic called twilight when we chased half rubber balls while overhead tiny bats chased their supper... Ah, childhood!!