Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wild to Us

Another wonderful memoir piece by a student in response to the Landscape prompt a few weeks back. This first-person piece gives us a strong feeling for her small town's own "Field of Dreams" - minus all the grandeur but with as much of the power.

A sense of place is so much of what is necessary in memoir. Many classmates responded that they knew this field - that while her story is peppered with unfamiliar names, they all knew of a wild place like this in their midst as children. It is a universal story, filled with her strong specifics.

Enjoy the game, my dears!


Our backyard merged with the empty field, not yet filled with brown, yellow and white ranch homes like those surrounding the field. The field was wild in its way, certainly wild to us, living in houses on mowed lawns.

I don't remember the kind of grass that grew in the field but it never grew so high we couldn't stomp it down to create a baseball diamond. We didn't flatten the grass much further out than shortstop territory which improved our chances of hitting a home run. Finding a beat up dirty baseball in the grass and weeds usually took enough time to allow a couple of extra bases.

There was never a plan or a schedule for playing ball. We'd just show up after dinner and sometimes after school to see who else was there. If only two or five came we'd have batting practice taking turns as pitcher, outfielder and batter. Usually there were enough for two teams of four or five each, naturally dividing without having to say much, no captain picking his or her favorites. I wasn't the only girl who played. Sandy played regularly, running bases faster than any one, boy or girl. Johnna could hit into the next street over but could barely run because of her immense girth. We usually just called it a home run and didn't make her run around the rough diamond.

No one was perfect. No one complained of other's shortcomings. Playing was the thing.

We did complain about chiggers biting our ankles and blurring our view particularly as we played into dusk. These tiny beings generated hearty yells and thrown bats and the occasional "dammit." But it wasn't a sufficient obstacle to stop the game.

Where it was different for the boys and girls was the boys could move out further in the field, turn quickly and pee while we girls had to run home if we really couldn't hold it. I attribute my bladder's impressive ability to hold quarts of urine to playing baseball in that field. I'd rather let pee dribble in my pants than miss my turn at bat or interrupt my pitching momentum.

The taller grass past the shortstop provided cover for those moments when we decided to wait for a girl to come back from a pee break. Sometimes we would lie down and stare into the sky or turn on our stomachs to watch crickets and other critters you could only see if you were on the ground. The field was alive and we wanted to be in it and on it whenever we could. It was a friendly receiver of our missing baseballs, a cushion for our attempts to slide into bases marked by rocks, and a space to be with each other, with few rules, in fresh air with no demands to make a team or to be the most valuable player. We were all valuable players, and gave proper respect to each others' scrapes and bruises and time outs for a pee break.

I don't like to think about the field being filled soon after we moved away with more houses, more children to play with but no field to play in. It was so simple, so easy, so simply there, holding us while it still could.

-Linda Balisle

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