The summer before third grade I turned 8 years old.
I was the catcher for my baseball team, the one with the light blue jersey.
The memories I have about that season are poignant, but as an adult, and as a parent, the things I don't remember about that time catch my attention.
I remember that I loved wearing the shin guards in the dug out while my own team was at bat, just in case I had to hurry onto the field to warm up with the pitcher.
I remember that all of those accessories meant to protect me from machine-pitch baseball also made me feel so important, like the biggest risk-taker for my team.
I remember that our team shared a catcher's mask with the other team, so we had to pass it off with the coach after each bat. The other catcher was eating peppermint candy during one game and made the padded chin guard taste all minty. I remember being surprised and delighted by that sweet taste in the middle of all that sweat and dust, and then immediately worrying that the other team's catcher was a BOY. Gross.
(this is me, John Stewart and James, our teammate)
I don't, however, remember the name of my team, the name of any team we played, or whether we won a single game all summer. I didn't even remember whether the roof portion of home plate pointed towards the catcher or the pitcher...after all of those hours spent squatting next to it and watching the ump brush the red dirt off of it each inning (I remember thinking that little brush was so nifty).
It wasn't until my brother made an iron sculpture, a tower of stacked home plates, that I realized home plate was the outline of a "home" anyway.
Henry vacillates between loving football the most, and baseball the most. We recently broke the tee at our house, so we've been on pitch-ball since. I tried to get Svea to swing at a few, but after she head-butted the tee (on purpose) then hit herself with the bat, I decided I'd let her take the lead with sports interests.
Anyway, Henry got a baseball "trainer" for Christmas that acts as a tee, or as a battery-powered pitcher. In two swings, he had it figured out.
Our cousins Kristin, Reggie, Carter and Graham stopped by and we had a little game in the front yard. Henry is still talking about how great that was.
As you can see, football helmets were part of the baseball game. The tiger-striped one was home plate for awhile, and the white one was on and off of Henry's head.
I think Henry shares my gene that claims Accessories Increase Feelings of Self-importance. It didn't even take years and years of aggressive marketing for him to understand that important relationship.
But I GET why the football helmet helped in baseball that morning...or the right color shoes, certain pants, or a light blue jersey.
I am flooded with my own childhood memories as I watch my children grow, and I remain grateful for that. Nervous for what's to come, but grateful.
I loved remembering that baseball summer - the sweet tastes, the dusty smells, the sense of importance.
Home plate's roof points towards the catcher. I looked it up. Now, as I play with Henry (and maybe Svea) I'll know where to stand if I'm ever the catcher.
Maybe we'll have peppermints too.