At a diamond in South Oxford, what we called Chaffee Field, even though it lacked an official name, I watched my mother at bat in a lady’s softball game. She was in her forties, and I’d never seen her play any sport. She worked full-time, raised six children, and had not, until that year, ever had enough time for distractions beyond church, and PTA.
She hit a double that reached the fence, and it struck me as odd to see her breathing so hard as she thundered to second base and stood there, ribcage heaving up and down, hands on her hips, struggling to enjoy cheers from the bench and bleachers. No one it seemed had ever cheered for my mother. I cheered as loudly as I could. All of us did. It was as if I was seeing her for the first time as a woman, a girl, one of the saucy females on the block, too, I supposed.
I remembered her telling me she never had time to play sports or to go to school as a girl because she was poor and had to work. She’d quit school early, but now and then she’d get into a football game on the streets of Jamaica Plain in Boston. A girl had to be tough to play in street pick-up games in her neighborhood. I remembered her telling me how she chewed little balls of asphalt, all the girls did on hot summer days because asphalt was easy to find and none of them could afford chewing gum.
Clouds were rolling in. The afternoon sky looked inky. I hurried away from the bleachers and climbed to the roof of a storage building beyond the fence in left field. From there, I enjoyed a bird’s-eye-view. I felt the air as it cooled me, and it smelled like algae. The sky got darker. I watched the leaves of high oaks that edged the field. They turned white, sharpened as winds lifted them and the sky continued to darken and roil. A summer shower was coming on fast. I watched the women run off the field. Mothers shouted for their children. Car headlights came on, thunder cracked, and rain with a whoosh drenched everything.
All was about to change. It started raining friends. It started raining mothers. As I watched them fall from the sky, I realized I had more of them than I had thought.
Only one of them was enough and she for so long had been a stranger.
I hadn’t loved anything, or anyone. Ever.
Basil Rosa is the pen name of John Flynn. Read more of his work at basilrosa.com.