(ROCKWALL, TX – June 28, 2015) “I’m dreading summer, Coach.”
Then she described an Olympic-esque training regimen. Playing for three teams, training, traveling to tournaments every weekend, clinics, camps; I needed a three-day weekend after hearing her summer schedule.
Man, times have changed. I longed for summer, and as my student, I was an athlete, a baseball player, back in the day when sports had seasons. We played in tournaments here and there, but when it ended, it ended, and playing on multiple teams was disloyal sacrilege.
Just keeping the practice schedule would’ve been impossible. We maintained our practice field. We didn’t own it; just sort of discovered it, a kind of finders-keepers baseball diamond—a simple rusted backstop in the middle of woods behind a college. Every week I’d jump on our 1940’s Alice Chalmers tractor with Dad and putter through the city streets to cut and drag it. For a couple of summers, our whole team raked and lined this “field of dreams.” It was hot, hard work, but we did it together, dads included, which made the place much like the magical cornfield of the movies.
Except for a weekly ballgame, we’d spend several of our evenings at my grandparents’. A porch swing and chairs circled under a big tree and we’d catch fireflies while Pappaw recounted the good old days, and Mammaw roped us into a subsistence living chore of snapping beans or shelling peas. I’d sneak away with my cousins to go play on the ‘54 Chevy pickup or the tractor. Funny, when I tell these things to my students, they can’t get over how boring it all sounds, how they’d go crazy without some kind of entertainment. I guess Pappaw’s stories of owning the first car in the county or brandishing a pistol in his overalls to ward off seedy folks from his “fillin’ station” wouldn’t be enough for these schedule-crammed kids?
Yet, I was busy—busy fishing. Every Wednesday, as dependable as the rising sun, we headed to either a southern lake or theMississippi River. Sometimes we’d even make a campout of it, eat by the fire at night, and fish all day. Eventually, Dad bought a lake house and every weekend and Wednesday we maintained the cabin while fishing between chores. I knew the water so well, I’d take my dad’s friends on full-service fishing excursions, frying up our catch afterwards.
Maybe I’m just being nostalgic or maybe I need to accept the new reality that if kids are going to be successful, they must become the best shooter, passer, sprinter, or hitter in the county. Nevertheless, I just can’t get over the idea that they are kids, and “kid-dom” is so short and the potential for a lifelong of memories is so great, that we gotta savor summer break. My children may be average because of it, they may not be the next superstar, but their childhood will be anything but mediocre; mine sure wasn’t.
By Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Scott Gill of Rockwall, a teacher, coach and author of Goliath Catfish. Follow Scott’s blog at scotttgill.tumblr.com and read all of his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.
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