Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Whiffle Ball Madness

Friday, December 10, 2010 By

As is customary at my parents' home, we got together a Whiffle Ball game over the Thanksgiving holiday week. My sister and I took turns pitching to the three children, and trying to tag each other out.

My 13-year-old nephew, Jacob, had an advantage. He has several years of Little League behind him.

My 6-year-old nephew, Jackson, was enthusiastic, but untrained. Still, he has that assured physicality that boys seem to accomplish before girls. He wasn't great, but he was comfortable and had a solid stance.

And then there was Emmie.

Y'all, I love her more than anything on this planet. But that child could not hit a ball if it was a magnet and the bat was made of steel. She was too busy laughing, yelling crap instructions at her cousins, jumping up and down with excitement, and spinning in circles at the end of every swing.

In short, she was awesome.

While I was on 'second base' (the big poplar tree by the driveway), Jacob was on 'first base' (the dogwood tree by the street), and Jackson was on 'third base' (the corner of the sidewalk by the front porch). Kelli was pitching to Emerson. And Emmie was bouncing up and down like a lunatic.

"Keep your eye on the ball, Emmie," Kelli said. Swing! Miss. Spin...

"That's okay. Try again." Swing! Miss. Spin...

"I can do it!" Emmie shrieked, joyously confident. She would get it the next time. Swing! Miss. Spin...

Jackson, who enjoys playing the role of the older, more worldly cousin, rolled his eyes in my direction.

"It's okay," he said. "She's only five, you know?"

Yes, thanks, Jackson. In the interim: Swing! Miss. Spin...

Jacob was chuckling at her. Kelli grinned back at me. It was going to take a while. But not even Jackson suggested that she had struck out, even though he, himself, had done so earlier. My family is incredibly generous of spirit.

Meanwhile, I restrained myself from tackling Kelli while her back was turned. It's a palpable desire that I've fought since we were little, when there were three more dogwood trees in the front yard and second base seemed light years from first.

Just as I was entertaining myself with the fantasy, Emmie swung - and connected!

"RUN EMMIE!" I shrieked, and started for third. She was celebrating her hit with more jumping and laughing. "RUN!"

She dropped the bat and ran-pranced (if that's possible, which it is, if you're The Divine Miss Em) toward first, while Kelli scrambled for the ball that had dropped about two feet in front the plate.

Emmie made it to first as I rounded home (the area in front of the big pine tree - try sliding on pine cones, bitches!) and turned to see her running for second... sort of. Unfamiliar with the rules of the game, she wasn't running from the person with the ball - she was running from everyone.

"Emmie, touch the tree!" I shouted.

"Dey goeend TAG MEE!" she shrieked, and ran in a circle around Jackson, who stood bemused.

"No, only if they have the ball! Touch the tree!" I gasped through laughter.

Without warning, the ball whizzed past her head into the "outfield" as Kelli tried to throw her out. That's the advantage of Whiffle Ball. You get to throw the ball at runners. It's deeply satisfying. I have often made the argument that baseball, in general, would be more entertaining if the runners could take the bats around the bases with them.

"Run to third, Emmie!" I shrieked, and she abandoned the idea of tagging second and headed towards the sidewalk.

Just then, Jackson caught the ball, thrown from the outfield by Jacob. Emmie changed direction as Jackson came towards her. It became a footrace, Emmie running to tag third before Jackson could tag her. Jackson was gaining. So Emmie ran for the sidewalk.

"Base!" she shouted, using the perpetual refuge of hide-and-seekers.

She was not on base. She was halfway down the sidewalk from base. But Jackson stopped and looked at the adults for direction. On the one hand, she very clearly was not on base, and a child less empathetic than Jackson would have tagged her out and celebrated in her face. (That is to say, I would have done that to my sister when we were little, because she could run twice as fast as me and catching her would have been damn good reason to celebrate.) On the other hand, Emerson very clearly did not understand the rules of the game at all.

"Emmie, that's not third base," Jackson explained.
"BASE!" she shrieked. "Baaaaaase!"

Hoookay, then. At a disadvantage both physically and in experience, Emmie resorted to the old argument standby: The one who yells loudest wins.

"Emmie, third is the corner of the sidewalk in front of the stairs," I called, still guffawing. "Just that part, not the whole sidewalk."

I had to leave, then, to come back to Augusta. I had two more days of work before the holiday, and I was loathe to leave them to drive two hours. So I don't know how it was resolved. Probably with more running and shrieking.

But I know that Emerson was having a great time with wonderful people who - even if they were just barely a year older - worried about her feelings as much as her safety. She would spend the next week doing more running and shrieking, laughing and playing, stealing sweets and hiding-and-seeking, than she does anywhere else. And maybe by Christmas she'll have those bases all worked out.

Until then, I'm going to work on her swing. Cause, dang, she needs it.


Post a Comment