“Mom, a bird just took a crap on this window.”
Alex and I are getting into the car. I am about to drive him to the Little League field where he has played baseball since he was little.
My little boy is at least two inches taller than I am now. He wears shoes about a half a size smaller than my husband’s.
And he doesn’t play Little League baseball any more. I am bringing him to the field because he is a Jr. Umpire and this will be his first game.
First full game. He umped (is that a word? spell check isn’t disputing it, so I’ll leave it) two scrimmages at the field on opening day, this past Saturday. I only saw part of the second game. He was behind the plate for the first game, in the field for the second game.
Bill took a picture. I was too cold to.
It was surreal, watching that part of that game.
Bill and I stood back a bit. Families – parents, grandparents, siblings – of the team in the green shirts filled the bleachers nearby. We were on the first base side. Some parents had brought their own chairs. Tiny little brothers and sisters screeched and chased in and around the adults.
The ballplayers were tiny, too, at least to us. Our little boy looked…well, he looked like an adult in comparison.
And Bill and I looked at each other with similar shell-shocked expressions on our faces. And we said things like “Look how little they are!” and “He’s so tall next to them!” and “Once upon a time he was little like them!” We didn’t know any of the parents. Our kids were older than theirs. We did not overlap.
Cue “Sunrise, Sunset.”
But it’s true. And unbelievable, a bit.
All this time has passed, from tiny ball player in an over-sized tee shirt to tall junior umpire in his blue shirt that fits just right.
I only closed my eyes for a second, and this happened.
His voice is deeper, too. That still startles me when I call his phone and this…this man’s voice answers. I think, for a fragment of a fraction of a second now, who is answering Alex’s phone?? And then…good lord, it’s Alex.
He’s a teenager. Not just a just-turned-thirteen teenager, when I could still sort of pretend to myself that he was twelve and therefore still really just a kid, but a going-on-fourteen, it’s for real, there’s no pretending otherwise, teenager.
At times I wonder where my sweet little boy went. Because, let’s be honest, teenagers aren’t all that sweet all the time. There’s hormones and emotions and the embarrassing fact that one has parents who are inclined to be around and sometimes even talk to you in front of your friends. It’s not easy being thirteen going on fourteen. Or the mother of one.
And yet, my sweet little boy is still in there. I see him peek out. Sometimes he even comes all the way out to hang with me and watch tv, or tell me, excitedly, about the possum he saw in our neighbor’s yard the other night, right on the other side of the driveway!
In addition to the sweet little boy and the sometimes moody teen, I see a compassionate young man who watches and takes things in and thinks and has empathy. The little boy had this, and as he transforms into taller and deeper-voiced versions of himself, he carries these good things with him.
My father is 91. He has early dementia. Sometimes it’s okay, sometimes he decides he needs to go somewhere and sets off (on foot, we don’t let him drive any more), without really remembering where he thinks he is supposed to go. It is just another chapter in all our lives, but Alex hadn’t really experienced his grandfather’s new dimension until one morning when I brought him down to visit my father early one Saturday morning.
Dad didn’t remember Alex’s name.
Not at first.
Adults aren’t supposed to forget who their grandchildren are, much less their names, right?
A bit of an eye opener.
And about a week after that, Alex asked if we could take Papa – my dad – out to breakfast, if he was still able to do that sort of thing.
It was one of those filled-with-pride moments, you know? It was sweet and kind and sensitive.
And we did – Alex, Julia and I took my dad out to eat at his favorite breakfast place in town, and we had fun. Basically fun means Dad and my kids seem to conspire to drive me crazy, and then they all laugh at me.
I loved it.
On Saturday, when the scrimmage was done and Alex and the other Jr. Umpire were crossing the field, I started walking toward the gate next to the dugout.
And then I stopped.
Sometimes I remember when I was that age. I didn’t want my parents around either. I certainly didn’t want them smothering me in any way. (Unless, of course, I did want them around, smothering me. Not that I would admit it. Much.) So I paused, away from the gate, and waited.
Alex and the other umpire came out, walked toward me and yes, I started walking toward them and Alex kind of only made eye contact with me with about a quarter of one eyeball, the other kid walked away to wherever he needed to go, and Alex asked if I had any money because he was hungry.
And I said something about it would have been polite to introduce me to his friend (and ohmygod I sound like someone’s annoying mother!) and he said I had this big MOM SMILE on my face like I was all proud of my little boy, and so he didn’t want to.
I told him my face was frozen like that because it was so cold.
We got burgers from the snack bar and drove home.
Today is his first day working with a regular adult umpire. We didn’t know the name of this person or where they were supposed to meet, but at least umpires wear umpire uniforms, so they’re kind of easy to spot.
We pulled into the parking lot and I asked Alex if he wanted me to wait a little bit.
I was completely prepared to be dismissed, but no, he said yeah, maybe a couple minutes, okay? and I said sure.
I sat and watched him jog across the grass and over to the ball field. He introduced himself to the umpire and I saw them shake hands.
And the goofy, MOMSMILING sappy part of my brain, the one doing the cinematography, watched him jog away from the car in my mind over and over, the scene slightly fuzzy, with a swell of tear-jerking music playing in my ears, and it was like my little boy was jogging across the grass and growing up right before my sappy, annoying, MOMSMILING eyes.
So I came home and typed this.