(Mother’s Day, 2021)
Ever since Mom’s passing, whenever I find myself missing her, I walk my memory back to being nine years old and standing in our kitchen.
I was sad as hell.
The way you get when you’re nine and you have no one to play with on a school’s out, full summer sun, Mullen Street morning. The kind that, when you’re a kid, is just too good to let go to waste.
No Danny. No Jeff. No Jerry. No Amy. No Billy.
Not a single soul to pass ball with.
If you were nine in our neighborhood, this was a crime against humanity.
Standing in the kitchen, I made no secret of my discontent, moping around in all my misery.
Mom finally asked what was wrong, and I told her. She ran down the full roster of my friends. I shot down each one with a “Not home … not answering the phone … car’s not there ….”
Moved by equal parts not wanting to see me sad and finding me annoying AF, she disappeared into the dining room, opened the closet, and reappeared wearing a ball cap and holding Dad’s baseball glove.
“I’ll pass with you.”
This was not a solution to my problem.
For starters, she looked absurd.
This is the lamest idea ever, I remember thinking. I’d never seen Mom throw anything other than fits at my Dad.
That’s all right, I said.
“Come on, let’s go,” she persisted, popping the ball from her right hand into her gloved left.
No, really, I deflected.
This went on for a good couple minutes.
In recorded history, though, no one ever won a test of will against Maggie Riddell.
So I ended up grabbing my glove and, still in full mope, begrudgingly followed her out to the street in front of our house.
As we spaced ourselves just a few feet apart, I remember thinking: this is going to be awful.
And it was.
She lobbed one that bounced in front of me and came to rest harmlessly at my feet. I tried to aim at her glove so she wouldn’t have to move to try and catch it.
She ended up having to chase the ball down the street anyway.
She was atrocious. Couldn’t throw or catch to save her life.
But she got the biggest kick out of the whole thing.
When I was about to toss one to her, she’d screw her cap on, pound her fist in Dad’s glove, bend her knees, and say something baseball-ish, like, “Put ‘er in there.” The fact that she had herself giggling by the time my throw was on its way didn’t help her fielding percentage.
Never one to take herself too seriously, she was totally in her element in spite of her incompetency.
She’d attempt a pitcher’s windup and laugh like hell when the ball sailed opposite of her aim.
We soon settled on throwing easy grounders to each other, and eventually lost ourselves in trying to make it as easy for the other as possible.
I have no idea how long we were out there.
Probably wasn’t more than 10 or 15 minutes.
The only thing I remember is that, by the end, I wasn’t sad anymore.
It was the first and only time we ever threw ball.
Maybe because she was so awful. Maybe because we never needed to again. Maybe because having no one to play with was a blessed rarity in our neighborhood.
Or maybe because once was enough.
Because on rare occasions, I still find myself sad as hell. The way you get when you’re 50 and know the person you wish you could call isn’t home anymore.
So I walk my memory back to the old kitchen. Watch her disappear into the dining room, and reappear in her ball cap, looking ridiculous.
And I follow her, still in full mope, out to the street in front of our house.
I see her wind-up. Pound Dad’s glove. How she laughed.
And we lose ourselves in trying to make it as easy on the other as possible.
I stay for only as long as I need to.
Until I’m not sad anymore.
Always and forever … Mom to the rescue.