Arc of the Ball

Give or take a few years, a wave of contemporaries will join me sloshing into retirement. Some are younger and have ever-shorter distances to go. Others, having been there for a while, welcomed me at the finish line. A few leaned into the same tape as I did.

I think we share this mutual view: we don’t believe we’ve made it; we’re grateful to have “finished” the race. As I must’ve written elsewhere, now I know why my parents were so happy when work stopped scheduling their lives.

While I’m damned pleased with my new four-day weekends – have a part-time job in order to break up the week – there are Fridays when I feel kind of outta sorts. I feel as though I should be somewhere. Fortunately, lolling is dispelling this notion. That and evermore leisurely arrivals at the sports book.

Saw a meme or read a comment attached to one pointing out how Boomers my age thrived during our adolescence as compared against adolescents of today. In summers especially. On weekdays, we played outdoors from mornings until mauve painted the early evening skies.

Since our parents worked, let’s assume we were “latchkey kids.” Writing that now bothers me. At the time, who among us didn’t accept the responsibility of having keys to our premises? Couldn’t misplace or lose that key. Couldn’t let just anyone inside.

Lessons instilled by our parents through trust.

The rules weren’t commandments. In a way, these baby steps led to gradual extensions into what would become adulthood. Not having a housekey vanish, not allowing the wrong people entry into our home while parents away at work, somehow later lessened the considerable trepidation of teens asking for the car keys.

I have no doubts that my contemporaries sweated the same bullets their parents did when as teen-agers they asked for the same motorized independence as did their own teens. If that isn’t a circular description of life, what is?

Cities like Quarropas, New York, my boyhood locale, established parks and fields and playgrounds in which our adolescent selves could exhaust ourselves through summer gambols. Boys and girls. Were we too young then to slot genders into specific roles? On the courts, on the fields, I can’t recall anyone saying girls played like girls. Of course, that’s a tough claim when the girl was handy with a baseball glove or could drive to the hoop like silk serviettes sliding through napkin rings.

Now that life has rewarded me more idle hours, I get to observe more. Here’s the disclaimer: yes, I know I’ve relocated to Las Vegas. Immediately immersed in summer, a season in the Mojave which ought to be renamed “Torrid,” even the most casual looking around reveals every court or ballfield as vacant. Even during what passes for morning cool or the evening relief when the sun finally drops behind the mountains and the heat that lingers isn’t being pounded into flesh.

But then I recall those Northeast days when 90° temperatures absolutely boiled with 60-70 percent humidity. Sure. We caught plenty of Leave It to Beaver episodes on morning TV. Or better yet, The Donna Reed Show.

How did we distinguish then disregard Mrs. Cleaver and Mrs. Stone were stay at home moms steadily baking cookies while our own mothers worked elsewhere? Maybe we were fortunate enough, grounded enough, to know most television other than news broadcasts only meant to entertain, not influence, and certainly never be mistaken for reality.

Yet a time, okay, a feeling arrived once our cereal bowls were washed then placed in the drying rack, we gathered up gloves and bats or basketballs – or maybe gloves and bats and basketballs because who knew what the day would demand? – and left our addresses to meet whoever else had left their own homes.

No phone calls. Texting then unimaginable. Just instinct. Do adolescents today possess instincts? The kind devolved from being in and among our world.

Bottom line. We were outside running, yelling, and sweating like devils. Unless it rained, our summer days were under the sun. Our only other pastimes? Once Quarropas’ parks and recreation department opened neighborhood playground pools for the season. Nothing like the low-tech pleasures of splashing around then drying off through a few games of Nok-Hockey before hopping back in the pool.

The aforementioned meme portrayed adolescents of different eras side by side. I’ve pretty much described what’s represented on one half of the split image. The other is of today. Three girls, presumably friends, maybe in a mall somewhere, gazing at their handhelds. Unlike us at the same age, only their thumbs were getting all the exercise.

The social media correspondent who sent the meme was wistful. I gladly added more melancholy. I told her we should’ve stayed out later into deeper early evenings spending more time playing ball. We would’ve remained young longer. She shared my irrefutable sentiment.

Stuff you only realize as an adult. When it’s way too late.

Those nights afterwards decelerated the days. I don’t recall my parents ever asking how I’d spent my day. Seeing me unbruised and exhibiting no distress must’ve been enough to have informed them pleasing exertion of some sort filled my day as it should’ve. Did I ever recapitulate the days to mother or father? Unlikely. Perhaps then I was already aware the repetitiveness of simple suburban boyhood splendor might’ve resulted in their interest drifting.

Maybe instinctively I wanted them fully there when out of the ordinary circumstances demanded firm, assured, adult guidance. And as always on those rare occasions requiring them to be “hands on” they were.