Friday, May 15, 2009

Four stages

1. My dad drove a succession of pickup trucks throughout my lifetime: a green '49 Ford, I think, in my babyhood--at speeds over 30 mph, it shimmied all over the road and I loved it like a carnival ride. Over the years his trucks got gradually less Sanford-and-Son; his last was a silvery-gray extended-cab, camper shell, decent stereo, and I can't think of the make or model.

But someone in my neighborhood owns a similar truck, and even a year later every time I glimpse it coming down my street my heart jumps, for an instant, and I am ready to run out onto the sidewalk with happy surprise. It has been so long, where the hell have you been?

2. I was crazy for baseball even as a little girl...though I wanted only to hit, was uninterested in defensive play. I didn't get to play Little League; girls' teams were rarer, then, and anyway no one was available to take me to after-school practices. My grandfather indulged me, though, pitching to me for hours in the front yard where we'd marked out a long, narrow diamond.

Dad played beer-league softball one summer. They had somehow mustered up real uniforms, stirrup socks and all, not just t-shirts, and in my eyes this qualified him for Cooperstown. I had a snapshot of him in full regalia for years, a crooked picture I'd taken myself, pressing the shutter too soon, Dad half in, half out of the doorway. Chiaroscuro. I can't find it, now, can't remember if we went to any of his games.

Me and Mom and Sis and Mr. Sis went to the Mariners' second home game, this season (retro-Griffeymania precluded our getting four seats together for the opener). It was a beautiful evening, and an M's win; we had peanuts and beer and stone-cold overpriced hot dogs, and it was a blast like it always is.

Privately, though, I keep thinking about how, for nine years, I'd invited Dad to drive up and go to a game at the Safe with me. Outdoor baseball the way God intended! We could go to a night game and I would put him up here overnight. Or I would pay for a hotel room if he preferred. Or I'd take a day off and we'd go to a day game and he could drive back that afternoon, if he insisted. Kettlecorn and jumbo dogs and foam fingers and the best seats I could afford, any time, any month, year after year I offered--begged, really--but he never took me up on it. Couldn't spare roughly three summer hours in the ballpark, no matter how I asked, and thinking about this I am less sad than furious. Furious.

3. It's a babypalooza around me, lately. My personal trainer, three ladies in my book club, one of the writers on my team. I am enjoying going a little berserk, for all the showers. For the most recent one, I was at a schmancy toy store, and among the hand-carved wooden push toys and the organic felted-wool blocks made by a Guatemalan women's collective, there was inexplicably a chunky plastic toy tractor, with attendant chunky plastic farmer. Bright yellow and green, officially John Deere-licensed. Dad was a tractor buff, and a brand loyalist; one of the biggest Christmas scores I'd made in the last decade was when I bought him and Kathy a four-place setting of John Deere logoed plates, wheat sheaves around the rim, tractor shining in the middle. So when I saw this lurid toy jumbled on the shelf, I laughed, first. Then in the space of ten seconds I was weepy, fumbling for Kleenex in my purse, practically running to the register to buy something definitely else.

4. A dream, this week: that Dad and Kathy are renewing their wedding vows. They are making an enormous production out of it, too, a big ceremony, caterers...and among their wishes is that Sis and I dress in matchy-matchy fashion, much as we did in 1979, ringbearers in prairie dresses. It's all very awkward and uncomfortable as we fret and change clothes and try to arrange carpools to the venue, running late...and something else is bothering me about the whole scenario, too, but in the dream I cannot put my finger on it. It is only upon waking that the nagging sensation lifts, that I remember oh, yeah. Right. That.


chicklegirl said...

That chartreuse glow emanating from the other side of the Cascades? Yep, it's me: envious to the nth magnitude of your ability to write in such an unsparing, unsentimental way. Don't ever doubt how good you are: funny, accessible, witty, profound, poignant, eloquent. Good, dammit!

Gael said...

When my friend Ann died, I once saw a woman who looked like her coming towards me on the street. I mentally convinced myself it was her and it was like my heart broke all over again when she got close enough to recognize. Your truck story reminded me.