Tag Archives: Youth

Little League Love

Fierce soprano voices yell “Hey, batter!” Super-sized helmets top skinny little necks. Pint-sized players wield mitts big as sofa pillows (and often about as effective).

A hometown crowd cheers and munches hot dogs and popcorn.

It’s the season of Little League Love.

Unlike most onlookers, my husband and I are at a comfortable spectator stage, our children grown.

So I can actually watch games, which I rarely did during my son’s baseball career. Like many moms, I spent years sitting on the bleachers with eyes tightly shut, only opening them when I visited the concession stand.

We fans really try to behave. But when offspring are involved, the most righteous dad sometimes lets loose a tirade. The gentlest, sweetest grandma grows fangs when the umpire dares call her grandson out.

Of course, I never acted like that. I do, however, admit to going a little overboard in motivating my child, egged on by another mom. My friend loudly informed her twelve-year-old that if he didn’t hit that ball, she was going to dance for the crowd’s entertainment. I informed my son that I would sing. High. And very loud.

Not only did our sons smack the ball as if their lives depended on it, we inspired the entire team.

Yet despite our critical role in the victory, nobody put our names on their trophy. Where was the Mom love in that?

A roar from the present crowd brings me back from nostalgia. On this diamond, where younger teams play, contact with the ball almost guarantees a home run and most successful defense is purely accidental.

The players appear deeply serious, but the coaches are less, and the crowd has a ball. Some mothers even watch with their eyes open.

They contrast with their glazed-eyed kids, several of whom snore at their positions, the sun having set. An infield player makes interesting dance moves, but I don’t think he anticipates a Dancing with the Stars career. He forgot to visit the restroom earlier, so the compassionate umpire grants a special time out.

It’s easy for me to laud the joys of Little League from my maybe-I’ll-go-maybe-not perspective. For parents who spend enough time to earn a college degree watching, waiting and transporting, Little League Love wears a little thin. But one sitting near us saw it as a win-win situation. If his son’s team won, they’d return the following night for another chance at the championship. If they lost, he could run a combine over his neglected lawn.

He’s a dad who cares, yet doesn’t care too much about the game’s outcome. And that’s the very best kind of Little League Love.

What’s your favorite kid baseball moment?

 

Driven Crazy!

CarMomGirl2Our children are grown, and their offspring have not yet reached their teens—a comfortable stage for all involved.

But that will change the day their oldest turns 16.

How can I forget that era? Our teens learned to drive. My husband and I learned to pray.

Our kids were responsible. So why did the sight of a driver’s education car squeeze my stomach even more than the course fees?

Some blame rests on Mr. Doom, my long-ago driver education teacher. His first words: “I don’t like women drivers.”

Among four 16-year-olds, we could not scrape up a single Y chromosome. If we girls took driver’s ed today, we could sue him for sexual harassment and his hideous neckties.

Instead, we gulped meekly and tried our best to kill him.

My friend Linda eclipsed us all by wrecking the department’s new 1970 Cutlass (odometer reading: 11 miles).

I attempted to console her: “You did what he said.”

How could Linda know that when Mr. Doom ordered, “Pull over,” he meant after we passed the telephone pole?

His inspirational thought for the day: “You’re all going to die within 10 years.”

But I survived. I even lived to list my minivan as my legal address during our children’s school years.

But me, their unofficial driving instructor? It was like Homer Simpson giving sensitivity lessons.

I did discover excellent practice sites. The first was our church parking lot. I felt Cemeterycloser to God there.

I found our second driving course at the cemetery, where most of the people were already dead.

Such parental dedication contributed to eventual success: all our children obtained drivers’ licenses. No longer did I drag out of bed to retrieve a teen worker at midnight. Nor did I risk mugging as I dozed in a dark parking lot, awaiting the end of a youth lock-in.

Instead, we parents languished at home, monitoring car rates on the Insurance Channel.

We were proud of our children’s safe driving records, though, crediting superior instruction, constant practice and boring cars. When our grandchildren turn 16, Steve and I will highly recommend the latter as an efficient means of ruining their fun.

Their parents will recall our shopping for their first cars. Chunky and colorless, the perfect choice sat, an empty space on either side (the other cars didn’t want to hang around it). The car had visited only the grocery, library and church with its aged owner. It had forgotten how to drive above 55.

bmw-dashboardYes, sirree, their dad and I had found the car. Teens couldn’t sin in that car if they had to.

Could they?

If they did, they’re still not telling.

 

How about your first car? Anything you’re not telling your folks, either?

 

Lovin’ that Summer Job

frog-fast-food-white“How do I find a job?” our eldest inquired. Then 16, she needed to support her shoe habit.

Nostalgia washed over me. My father helped me get my first job at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. Because the boss knew Dad — a charming southern gentleman in work coveralls — he hired me, sight unseen.

No wonder you don’t see many Howard Johnson’s restaurants anymore.

I learned more about human nature there than if I’d pursued a Ph.D. in psychology.

I also waitressed one summer in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The town’s welcoming sign read, “Kill your wife in Klamath Falls, the Murder Capital of the World.”

My mother helped me get this job — were my parents trying to tell me something?

I worked night shift, serving inebriated cowboys who wore the menus and pulled me onto their laps. Thank goodness for the 4:30 a.m. arrival of gentlemanly garbage guys!

JanitorCartI switched to janitorial work, often a solo job. Cleaning men’s rooms, I, a college music student, sang loud, high operatic scales. Few guys attempted to use the facilities with Madame Butterfly on the premises. My brother and I tidied lawyers’ offices whose open bottles of whiskey smelled like floor stripper. We also cleaned Klamath County’s 86 phone booths. We ate greasy hamburgers, laughed, sang and spent our best time together.

Then I worked at a nursing home, caring for Alex, an elderly schizophrenic with light-bulb eyes. I also met gentle 90-year-old Minnie, who daily fried imaginary chicken for imaginary threshers, and Freddie, once a dapper young stagecoach driver. I often ducked John, who thought I was an island girl during World War II.

Gradually, I became accustomed to Stan’s Bath Ceremony. Each line of his accompanying song began with a string of profanity in Bohemian, followed by:

“Take off da shoes. Dirrty, loussy, rrrotten, no-good VOOMAN!” He removed his shoes.

“Take off da socks. Dirrty, loussy, rrrotten, no-good VOOMAN!” He removed his socks.

“Take off da shirt. Dirrty, loussy, rrrotten, no-good VOOMAN!” He removed his shirt.

“AAAAAHHHHH!” This prelude to verse two was accompanied by a swing of his fist through the air. Once he donned a robe, though, Stan followed me docilely to the shower room.

My first permanent office job didn’t involve serving eggs to menu wearers or bathing Bohemians. Finally, I had arrived.

Within ten minutes I discovered summer jobs were only warm-ups for the real world. …

My daughter snare-drummed her fingers, bringing me out of my reverie. She repeated, as if I were mind-impaired: “Mom, how do you get a summer job?”

“Don’t worry, honey,” I assured her in my most motherly tone.

“I’ll help you find one.”

 

What was your most memorable summer job?

 

 

Trial by Graduation

graduates_hatsThough considered a sentimental rite of passage, graduation more accurately resembles a series of trials — for all involved. Other societies require sticking one’s hand into a glove full of tropical ants or running naked across a herd of cows’ backs. Still, few match the demands of a contemporary American graduation, where we face:

Trial by Speeches. Graduation requires that half the addresses be delivered by people who never make speeches.

Graduates’ talks — generally an exception — are thoughtful and well-practiced, thanks to parents’ and teachers’ threats.

Academic speakers, however, often push listeners to the breaking point. Perhaps the researcher who spoke at my son’s graduation had studied disembodied brains so long she forgot how to connect with those still residing in humans.

If graduates misbehave, the graduation gods will press a button, ejecting them onto Neptune without diplomas. So students Super-Glue their eyelids open. They ready socks to stuff into mouths that issue inappropriate comments or snores. Friends don’t let friends snore during graduation speeches.

Proponents support this polite façade because graduates learn the hypocrisy necessary to keep a job.

The opposition claims such courtesy perpetuates poor speeches. If listeners shot Super Soakers at a sleep-inducing windbag, quality would climb considerably.

Trial by Wardrobe. If aliens attended a graduation, they might conclude the assembly was undergoing mass penance. Suits, ties, high heels, body shapers and control-top pantyhose abound. Graduation gowns trap heat when dry and disintegrate into goo during rainy processionals.

Mortarboards, true to their name, work well for bricklayers. They should not be imposed on human heads. No woman’s hairdo in the history of western civilization has survived the ordeal.

Trial by Music. After 96 repeats of “Pomp and Circumstance,” even the composer might ban the tune forever.

Also, no one ever knows the words to a school’s alma mater. Tunes, however, seem familiar, since many alma maters are based on Cornell University’s “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters” — which borrowed its melody from a song about someone dying of tuberculosis.

No wonder we are moved to tears as, struggling to read the program’s print, we warble:

Steve-RachaelGraduation0001

Steve and me, June, 1971 Columbus (North) High School, Columbus, Indiana

Glory to thy bricks and ivy,

Airy halls of light and truth.

We leave behind thy golden towers,

Built by our bank accounts, forsooth.

Or something like that.

Trial by Smile. Graduates must hug hitherto unknown relatives. This is good practice for their weddings.

Yes, the bravest students, families and friends must endure this rite of passage known as graduation.

And we wouldn’t miss it for the world.

 

 

 

 

Changing Decades Again?

A few years ago, I suffered the trauma of changing decades … again.

My husband and I first experienced this phenomenon on my twentieth birthday. I told my then-boyfriend, “Someday, I might even turn 30.”

He looked deep into my eyes. “Let’s grow old together.”

I reveled in our romantic moment—until he, who would not change decades for another six months, said, “Of course, you’ll always be older than me.”

He almost didn’t make it past his teens.

Facing this recent age shift, however, proved harder than facing 20, even if “60 is the new 40.” Yet, who am I to buck mathematical progress? Not only would I like those “60 is the new 40” folks to track my age, I wish they would check my weight. And work for the IRS.

I went further, embracing “60 is the new 30.” Changing decades this last time reminded me of pregnancy. The same gradual belly expansion, losing sight of feet. Wearing the same two waistless outfits, despite a full closet.

Visiting a new restauraSRPhillipsPreBeth0001nt, I didn’t wonder, “Is the food good?” or “Are prices reasonable?” Instead, I asked, “Where are the restrooms?” and “What’s your antacid du jour?”

Still, changing decades again proved more positive than I anticipated.

Years ago, I read in a women’s magazine about an hour make-up regimen for joggers. Seriously.

Today, no one expects me to wear three kinds of lip gloss when I exercise. And run? Spectators applaud if I walk, displaying only mild cardiac symptoms.

Turning 60 also provided peace and quiet. Phone surveyors demanding input from the 35-to-59-year-old crowd suddenly lost interest in my views on Daylight Savings Time, potholes, sock replacement and the Theory of Relativity. I miss sharing my opinions. But what are relatives for?

Travel presents positives, too. When I was younger, flight attendants glared while I heaved my fat carry-on into a compartment. Now — especially if I clutch my back — they heave it for me and later extract it like a wisdom tooth.

That courtesy can’t compare, though, with my first-ever school lunch with my granddaughter. We ate in a claustrophobic room vibrating with jet-engine-decibel noise. Yet that dining experience rated five stars.

PhillipsSRColts15Not that I turned down a grown-up dinner out to celebrate my 60th with my spouse. Not only has he increased in wisdom, but I’ve mellowed, too. Maturity is our byword now. …

Na-na-na-boo-boo! I received the senior discount, and he didn’t.

 

How do you celebrate changing decades? Cruises? Trips to Paris? Extra prune juice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Dreamin’ Together

O my God, we had 18 college freshmen and two sophomore leaders in our home yesterday. Twenty college students, all with beautiful bodies, ice-cream-cone eagerness, and shiny-Cadillac minds. What fun! Thanks for Your reminder that I can still dream dreams (Joel 2:28). And that someday, through Jesus, we will all outshine each other!