I wanted to play catcher. I tried on the cool-looking equipment at baseball practice and didn’t contract lice, a definite perk of being bald. At some point that same year, I met Royals’ catcher John Wathan when he was signing autographs and that only increased the desire.
So, one summer afternoon, I talked Mom into being the other half of my battery. Mom didn’t have any prior experience pitching, but I didn’t care. We went into the backyard and I explained the signs to her, fully expecting her fastball to look different from her curve. I turned my plastic Royals hat around and held up a target and we played catch like this for at least ten minutes.
Afterwards, I tried to convince her to take me to Bass Pro Shops — which used to have a large baseball department — and buy me a set of shin guards and a chest protector and a mask.
“No,” she said without hesitation.
“But, Mom…!” I pleaded and gave her reasons.
And then she gave me the Mom-look which meant “Drop it” so I dropped it because I know better.
That is the only memory I have of Mom not supporting my dreams. Piano and soccer and baseball and gymnastics and choir practices and every other activity under the sun, Mom was and always has been my biggest cheerleader. The bedtime pray-er who encouraged me to trust, to not borrow tomorrow’s worries, to have the courage to try new things. The red lipstick kisser who left lip prints on my bald head. The jeans-for-my-birthday buyer. The baseball pants bleach-er who never asked why I slid and dove at every practice and game.
“Are we going to play catch with a beach ball?”
Mom used to be a kindergarten teacher. She once won a district-wide award for helping her students grow as readers. It’s no wonder that words and books and stories are such a big part of my life. She now gets the privilege(?) of reading the earliest drafts of my books. I still get nervous when Mom reads my books.
“No, with baseballs and gloves.”
When my family lived in KC, Mom came up for a week to help me with toddler Kaylea while Jamie was on a mission trip in Texas. In 2002, the Royals were very, very good at losing — they lost 100 games that year. That July, Mom and I took Kaylea to a Royals game because tickets were quite inexpensive and it would be fun. Mom got a fantastic picture of Kaylea on the playground at the K, one of my favorite pictures to this day. That was the same game we learned that toddler Kaylea despised fireworks. The Royals won every game while Mom was in town.
“It’ll be my first time!”
Mom is not known for her memory. I did not expect Mom to actually remember her pitching; it happened at some point in 1983. A lot has happened since 1983.
My family is taking Jamie out for lunch after church and then I’m grilling for both our moms this afternoon. Some games of catch take a decent amount of planning to coordinate. Since I’m now old and wake up with the sun, something Mom doesn’t even do, I surprised her with a bouquet of flowers before she left for church and asked her for catch. Which does sound somewhat silly, but it worked.
I intentionally did not wear a t-shirt knowing she would be dressed in her Sunday best, getting ready to teach her preschool Sunday school class.
She loved the flowers and laughed at the catch invitation.
“It’s gonna be 90 while I’m grilling. I didn’t want you to melt in the heat.”
(Weren’t we just talking about wind chills a couple weeks ago?)
Mom used the new Wilson glove and I reminded her of the story from last millennium, which probably was her first game of catch. She laughed as I told her the story. I love making Mom laugh.
I don’t have any desire to be a catcher anymore. It’s the only position on a baseball field I’ve never played. But I do have an incredible passion for connecting to all people through a game of catch.
Mom put on lipstick for the picture on the back deck with the flowers.
I prepared myself for red lip prints on my head.