The girls and I watched the ball roll to a stop against the trunk of a tall shady crepe myrtle.
As kids, we were mesmerized by most anything. Seconds earlier, from the bottom step of the back porch, one of my sisters had given our well-worn kickball a final punt towards the shrub before we ran inside to wash up for supper.
From somewhere we heard Mama’s voice. “Don’t leave that ball laying out there in the yard.”
We pretended not to hear. Our game wasn’t over. It could restart at a moment’s notice and we must be prepared! Put away a bike yes, a skateboard maybe, a kickball never. Unwritten rule.
My sisters and I, along with various cousins, played together in our backyard constantly. Most any time we could be found in the throes of Hide and Seek or Simon Says, but our pick-up kickball games made memories. Some of the best lasted from just after supper to just before lightning bugs. It was a fun, exciting, laugh-filled summer routine we knew would never end.
But it did.
Somewhere along the way, kickball took a backseat to other activities. Maybe a cousin “got too big” for it. Maybe summer vacations took up more time. Or maybe it was a childhood ritual that had simply served its purpose teaching us how to follow rules, be good sports, and recognize the value of family fun. While it lasted, it was our world. Surely, none of us realized the last time we played would be the last time we’d play.
But it was.
My sisters and I, cousins too, eventually moved on and away, but stories of kickball glories resurfaced whenever we regathered at Mama’s. We’d laugh over who was the best kicker, fastest runner, or loudest screamer. Mama would roll her eyes and remember we always made such a terrible racket. We reminded her she must have enjoyed it since she always watched from the kitchen. She’d grin and say she was just making sure somebody put away the ball. We liked Mama watching us. We knew she always would.
But she won’t.
Mama passed away last month. After the funeral and on my way back out of town, I rode by our old house. It had been sold months prior just after my mother moved in with one of my sisters. She wasn’t thrilled to leave the home she’d been in for sixty years, but she was happy knowing the new owners were a couple with children. Young children who would enjoy the yard the way we had.
I thought about that as I eased slowly up the driveway like a stranger. The same old driveway I’d pulled into my entire life, but now it wasn’t Mama’s. I sat behind the wheel and stared first at the house, then out across the yard where so many memories were made.
Images flashed before me of games we played, laughs we had, and suppers we bolted down so we could get back outside for more. While in thought, from the corner of my eye I noticed movement in the direction of the back porch. Two little girls stood on the bottom step, mesmerized by something they saw in the yard. I leaned forward on the steering wheel to see.
From somewhere I heard Mama’s voice. “Don’t leave that ball laying out there in the yard.”
The girls and I watched the ball roll to a stop against the stump of a long gone crepe myrtle.
Stuart M. Perkins