I scanned the crowd, trying my best to be nonchalant about the fans chanting my name and imploring me to bring home more runs with my bat. The fans consisted of the usual high school baseball crowd. They had nicknamed me ‘birdman’ because of my fleet feet and chants of ‘birdman – birdman - birdman’ filtered across my consciousness as I stared out at the pitcher warming up. There were more fans than usual spilling completely out of the stands, many standing two and three deep along the walkways.
She was sitting in the stands with a girl friend when I first saw her. Dark long hair parted down the middle in the popular 1968 style. She had dark brown eyes, and a multitude of freckles splashed across her face. Across the freckled face played a smile that was radiant, highlighted by a very slightly chipped front tooth that gave her a down to earth cuteness that seemed to comfortably marry itself with her remarkable beauty.
I attended a large high school and as astounding as it may seem I had never seen this girl. When I did finally discover her my eyes would not leave her. I stared at her the rest of the game. She would smile demurely but look away out of embarrassment. Years later she would confess that she secretly followed me from one of her classes to my next class that year hoping to be noticed. A cock-sure peacock of a male moves quickly when he sees something he wants. I had completely noticed her for about two solid hours of mouth open staring. She was a senior bound for college, 1-1/2 years older than me which can be a huge difference when an 18 year old girl is assessing a punk 16 year old boy. My friends told me I had no chance with such a gorgeous senior. She was wiser and more careful than me, but I had passion and confidence and on the first date I left her at her door with the promise that one day I would marry her. She smiled slightly, not quite sure what to make of me.
On a mid April Saturday in 1972 the girl with the gorgeous freckled face said “I Do” to the dark haired baseball playing peacock of a boy that was quickly becoming a man.
She has watched me grow up for the past 34 years. In fact she sometimes has made me grow up. We have survived ovarian cancer. We have survived my stupidity and selfishness. We have survived all the things that a couple is required to survive and maybe a little more.
We have adopted and raised two successful children and we have a grandson.
As we work our way into our fifties it feels as if we have ascended a mountain in many respects. Often it seemed the mountain trail was scaled in the darkness, her hand in mine, and perhaps there is more mountain trail to climb. But we will keep doing it the way we always have, her hand in mine.
The women in my lady’s family live long lives. I will reach the top of the mountain before her. But that magic in her face and the love that seems now die-stamped in her heart will stay with me wherever I go, and I will wait patiently for the source of my memories to come home to me.
Baseball has always played a pivotal role in my life. And now I sit here 34 years later thinking about that long ago baseball game in 1968. It was the day I found something I loved more than baseball, and the memory of that remarkable paradox remains as fresh in my mind as the day it happened.
I’m tempted to write something like ‘after 34 years it seems so far, so good’, but I know I should backspace through it and write instead “so far and so good.”
Below is the face I became enchanted with in 1968. She is 19 in the photo. Now really, can you fault me?
Consider me blessed; kinda like Forrest Gump.