Sports

I’m sorry that the season’s over

How do you say goodbye? Parting is such sweet sorrow. (Remember the 1970s best seller, Love Story by Erich Segal, and its promotional line, “Being in love means never having to say you’re sorry.” I do and I remember John Lennon appearing on The Dick Cavett Show with his new wife, Yoko Ono, ridiculing the absurdity and spuriousness of that idea. “Being in love,” Lennon said, “means having to say you’re sorry all the time.” When you love someone, that’s one of the things you do, one of the things you become willing to do, say you’re sorry.)

So what’s this got to do with the Perry League? With t-ball? Which I love?

Well, I want to say I’m sorry it has to come to an end.

I’m sorry I won’t have little girls and little boys picking Queen Anne’s lace-like wild flowers in the right field grasses of Gaunt Park for me, offering them to me as a gift. I’m sorry I won’t see them figuring out that one child’s offering is sweet, but a second’s is sweeter, and a third one’s sweeter still—but when it’s four, “Here, Jimmy,” and five, “Here, Coach Jimmy,” and six, “Here,” then seven, “Jimmy?” When it’s eight, nine, and 10 children offering you flowers, filling your hands so full you can’t do a jumping jack without dropping all those flowers, all those gifts, you wish they’d stop—but just as you think this, you “get” it, you see the conspiracy in their faces as they beam happily up at you, you see they know exactly what they are doing; enough with these exercises! Be gone, exercises!

I’m sorry I won’t have 5-year-old Nathan Schindler slipping into my lap when we sit on the ground, putting the bottoms of our feet together, trying to touch our noses to our toes, which I cannot do because Nathan is in my lap, in my arms, he’s leaning against me, his back to my chest, and his feet are closer to my nose than are my own feet.

I’m sorry I won’t have a parent like Pam Conine telling me how much she likes my articles, how she thinks they’re like little short stories, which feeds my seemingly insatiable hunger for praise, love, and acceptance, nourishing my burning desire to be a writer.

I’m sorry I won’t have professors, experts like Bob Devine, telling me Perry League represents the best of Yellow Springs, that it’s community building, a wonderful and complex, even holy thing, which he knows about, which he teaches, which has been going on here, this community building, in this Perry League under me and under those who coordinated it before me, people like Hank Chapin and his gang, people like Bill Scott and his gang.
I’m sorry I won’t be exposed to the easy, obvious Oh-Why-Didn’t-I-Think-of-That brilliance of our t-ball children—like Emma Romohr, 10, suggesting for the second year in a row that we have a final, end-of-season run: “Aren’t we going to have our final run of the year?” she wondered after the picnic, after the trophies have been handed out, when people think it’s over and are starting to pack up to go home. (And so we did, we had a final, exciting, end of season run to the outfield—“Did you have a good time tonight?” Yessssssssssssssssssss-esssssss!!—and back.)

I’m sorry I missed another brilliant idea, the newest, the latest (and I’m-so-sorry-it-didn’t-register-in-my-brain-until-two-days-after-our-final-potluck-picnic-trophy-night), 5-year-old Ethan Pogue’s idea that we all assemble at the top of the Gaunt Park Fourth of July hill and “Ready, set, go!” roll down it together! (Next year, Ethan, next year. I promise.)

I’m sorry I won’t be around so many wondrous children, such as the thoughtful Jonah Kintner, 4, who was so concerned when he saw the four tables we’d set up in a square, those tables being stacked with food brought by almost everyone there that night, those tables surrounded by adults making ready for the evening’s feast. “They’re in the way,” Jonah said, staring at the tables and the crowd of adults crowding around them, his face a mask of consternation. “They’re in the way.” (Apparently, his mom, Judy, and I thought, they were in the way of his running and racing and cyclone-fence backstop-climbing, cramping his swinging from the vines, no-holds-barred style.)

I’m sorry I won’t be given any more puzzles, like this one from Eric Romohr, 6: “Pete and Re-Pete are in the tent. Pete comes out of the tent. Who’s still in the tent?” Hmm. Pete and Re-Pete? “Re-Pete,” I say, and so Eric does, he repeats it: “Pete and Re-Pete are in the tent. Pete comes out. Who’s still in the tent?” And I almost tell him again, almost repeating my, well, dunderheadedness.

I’m sorry I won’t witness the rapid growth of these dear children, sometimes a growth that is obvious from one week to the next, such as with Russell Besson, 4, a handsome boy whose eyes and facial structure remind me of Clark Gable’s, who winced and covered his ears every time I blew my whistle (which is something I do as often as I can find an excuse to). He, Russell, this final week came to me after the evening’s play was done, after other kids had come and taken turns blowing my whistle, and asked if he couldn’t take a turn, too, if he couldn’t blow my whistle. Which his mom, Layla Nelson, and I both thought a wonderful and extraordinary thing.

I’m sorry I won’t witness the gratifying growth and development of Calysta (“Callie”) Hestor, 5, who appeared to be painfully shy the past two summers, who always hid behind her mother Tanya’s leg, who this summer did cartwheels for me, who smiled happily for me and directly at me, who came over to the big kid’s diamond to play with me, who challenged me to a foot race (which she won, hands down), and who on the last night of play gave me a “half-hug,” one of those sideways hugs where you sort of put your arm around the person you’re going to hug, thus only touching him or her with the meat of your one shoulder and a bit of your upper arm—but it was a hug nonetheless.

I’m sorry I won’t be loved like I was when 4-year-old Devyn Deal asked me where to sit after she’d filled her plate at our potluck. I told her dad she needed help finding a spot, but when he talked with her for a moment, he turned back to me and explained what Devyn was really wanting to know was where I was going to sit. So she could sit with me. And so with my heart bursting with a childlike joy, I did, I sat with her—and I thank you, Devyn, for I never sit to eat at these final potlucks, I am always running around taking care of things that don’t always need taking care of. And so for maybe the first time in 23 years I sat down to eat at a Perry League final night wiener roast potluck and ate a hot dog with you, dear Devyn, one of the loveliest, brightest, most interesting young creatures on the planet.

I’m sorry I won’t be hanging out with all these children, kids like Luke Saga-Frabotta, 3, one of our mudballers who’d rather not get muddy; or Joseph Minde-Berman, 5-and-a-half, the most generous-hearted boy I’ve met in a long time, and his precocious little sister, Eliza, two-and-a-half. (“Isha,” Joseph called her, because, he told me, when she was little she couldn’t pronounce Eliza. “She said Isha instead, and,” Joseph added happily, proudly, “in Hebrew that means woman!”)

I’m sorry I won’t get any more of six-year-old Peyton Hankie’s wild flower gifts (and the occasional lily in my mailbox). I’m sorry I won’t get to feast my eyes on 5-year-old Ian Hawkins’ freckles or his beautiful and easy athleticism. I’m sorry I won’t get to shout out to Jayden Shular, 8, a living. breathing dynamo, a boy of many gifts and talents, who can not only play great ball, but who can also dance, the boy really grooving to some very hip music he hums and sings as he gracefully moves that strong young body of his. I’m sorry I won’t get to see or listen to the very quick, very bright Rylee King, 7, 4-year-old Devyn Deal’s nephew! Nor will I get to be around the inimitable Cierra Richeson, whose exuberance and incredible fleet-footedness belie belief. Or little Miss Nevaeh Christon, 2, with a nuclear energized pizzazz all her own. Or the unique and animated Steffi Cooper, 8, who is so beautiful; nor see or be with her electric-wired, wild and wooly little brother, Peter, 5.

I’m sorry I won’t be hanging out with that matchless child, the five-year-old Aamil Wagner—do you know Aamil? And his devilish wondrousness? You should, you’d be better for it. And the same for his wise, warm, and mature-beyond-her-years older sister, the beautiful and vivacious Amani Wagner, 8. And I’m sorry I won’t be hanging out with that pure child delight, Eliza Gilchrist, 4, or her 21-month-old little brother, Miles, the two of them candidates for Most Gorgeous Children in America contests coming to a town near you soon, both of these kids, like their parents, radiant, giving, and bubbling with energy.

Oh, lord, I’ll miss them all—Dakota Joy and Madrid Joy Wasserman, Sydney and Sammy Steck, Anneliese and Dominick Fisher, Henry and Owen Wirrig. All of them who a year from now will be as different from themselves now as night is to day—while at the same time, quite wonderfully, quite mysteriously, quite mystically, they will all remain the same (plus ça change, plus c’est la mème chose, eh?).

So it’s with a bit of that sweet sorrow the beautiful Juliet speaks of that I say goodbye to another season of the Perry League, the village’s noncompetitive, beginner baseball program for all our community’s children ages 2–9, regardless of race, color or creed, a program I feel blessed and privileged to be a part of. So, to all you kids, all 85 of you who took trophies home the other night, and to all 250 or so of you who showed up for a night or two or three or more this season; and to all you guardians of these stupendous and most marvelous children—you parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, big brothers, big sisters, and friends of the family—I say thank you. It’s been another phenomenal year. I look forward to another one just as sweet next summer, okay? Okay.

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