backyard boy

Back in grade school I had crushes on a few different boys. At my 30th high school reunion on Saturday night I was thinking of them. One of them, my girlfriend Marianne reminded me, was Chris, the skinny drummer from the Partridge Family band—the first one—with the dark hair and eyes, big ears and gap between his teeth whose photo appeared on the back of the maroon colored album next to his siblings, Keith, Laurie, Danny and Tracy.

In fourth grade I had a crush on a boy who would soon become a drummer. His name was Jim and he lived on a nearby street. He was skinny too, with freckles and straight brown hair that was never too long. He hung out with some other neighborhood boys, Karl and Tim, the three of them magnets for several of my friends, but mostly for me—a total tomboy—and my friend Monica who I was recruiting to climb trees, race Hot Wheels, squash slugs and forsake the baby dolls she liked to play with.

One afternoon I invited the three boys over to my house to play. We decided to try a game of baseball, so I rummaged through a ragged cardboard box in the garage and fished out handful of soft worn leather mitts, a wooden bat and a dirty ball. We headed to an open part of my back yard between several huge maples, a bank of spruce and a couple of apple and pear trees.

In what seemed like my first up-to-bat, Jim, the boy I had the big crush on (and would continue to have for several years) got up to bat. In my mind he was wearing dark blue jeans, a slim navy, white and red striped shirt, white converse high-tops and a ball cap. He carefully positioned his feet apart, the heavy bat nearly resting on his shoulder. With great concentration I tossed the grapefruit sized ball in a high arch, it descended and met the bat square on with a crack. That menacing ball slammed straight into my face, no time for me to duck for cover. My nose caught the ball—which noses aren’t meant to do—and it started bleeding into my mouth. I cried.

With great disappointment those cute boys decided to hang it up just as it was starting to get fun, even as my beak began to swell as I held a tissue to it. I sadly watched the sneakered trio sulk away, their heads bowed, scuffing their feet in the dry grass.

That boy Jim and I have kept in touch over the years, though now he towers above me, the freckles having long since faded. He’s got two-year-old triplets of his own and he still likes to keep up with Calvin. Saturday night at the reunion we sat together in moulded plastic chairs drinking pints of ice water. We looked fondly at each other, our friendship having achieved a comfortable staying power and the feeling of soft worn jeans, and I blushed at the kind things he had to say about my writing, my cause. He told me that he wanted to become famous so that he could be the spokesperson for epilepsy advocacy, like Michael J. Fox is for Parkinson’s. He said he wanted to be rich and throw a ton of money at epilepsy research and get others to do the same. My heart swelled and my skin tingled with delight at hearing such generosity of spirit. I have to admit that I hope he gets a crack to do just that. And thinking back, It’s not a wonder that I had a crush on that sweet little backyard boy.

detail, photo by Michael Kolster

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