The snow here in Maine is melting. (Note to Floridian snowbirds: It’s safe to come back now!) There is only one small mound of packed snow behind the garage and one next to the front sidewalk, where previously, for the past three months, there was a 4-foot wall of snow. We affectionately referred to this as the “Wall-O-Snow.”
With a snowblower and shovel, Dustin and I in December cleared a path through the Wall from the driveway to the front door. When the boys walked through it, they couldn’t see above the snow. It was like they were going through a corn maze. Sometimes my middle son, Owen, 6, would be afraid. Other times, he and Ford, 8, pretended the maze of shoveled snow was some kind of spaceship in “Star Wars.”
But now, sadly (surprisingly), the Wall is gone, and as the snow levels recede in our backyard, I’m discovering a virtual time capsule of lost toys, shovels and gloves. One by one, the forgotten items are unearthed as the snow melts away. Like counting the rings of a tree to determine its age, the layers of snow represent the preceding months and weeks. The top layer, which fell in January and February, reveals lost winter equipment such as blocks used to make snow forts. The bottom layer of snow contains even longer-forgotten summer items such as toy trucks, a sand shovel and Ford’s baseball glove. It was the discovery of the baseball glove that was most poignant for me.
With the departure of winter comes the arrival of one of my favorite times of the year: Little League season. Maybe this is why God gave me only boys. If I didn’t love the smell of red baseball dirt and the way it tints a new pair of white tennis shoes, and if I didn’t love the sound of a baseball when it hits the bat or the feel of splintered bleachers, I’d be in a very sorry state as the mother of three boys.
As it turns out, watching my boys play baseball seems the perfect way to spend an afternoon. When I saw that the baseball park several streets over from our house is finally visible again for the first time since December, I knew that although we had our fun in the snow, we have more fun ahead of us at the fields.
Of course, being a mom in the bleachers isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s usually bittersweet. It takes a tremendous amount of “letting it go” to watch your child, possibly the one who is still afraid of the dark or likes his waffles cut up and with syrup on the side for dipping, step onto the field — or worse, disappear into the dugout — with a team of peers who may or may not taunt him for getting the first out or not making it to third base.
It is from the bleachers of Little League games that most mothers see the first glimmer of their boys becoming men. You know that he will likely cry into his arm in the car on the way home because he didn’t hit the ball, but for now, he rushes to the dugout with his friends and throws his fist at the air in a very cool, darn-I-should-have-gotten-that-one sort of way.
You see him suck in his breath and set his chin in a determined point when the coach tells him to run faster, even as you know this is the same boy who wants one more bedtime story and one more hug before going to bed at night.
I suppose the emotional torture, if you will, of mothers at baseball is due to the fact that despite it being a team sport, your child is often singled out with all eyes on him as he goes up to bat. Sometimes I can hardly watch. My heart pounds. And not because I want my sons to be good, but because I want them to FEEL good. There have been many times that I was tempted to scale the chain-link fence, grab my child and tell him, “It’s OK, honey, Mommy is very proud of you!”
This sort of behavior, of course, has been strongly discouraged by my husband, Dustin, who intuitively knows that babies become boys and boys become men on the baseball diamond. Doting mothers have no place in the process.
Yesterday, I picked up Ford’s lost baseball glove, the one that the Wall-O-Snow spit out in its purge. The glove was right beside a toy airplane that had made him cry because it didn’t work. I smiled, even as my heart slightly ached, to think about another season sitting in the stands, helplessly watching the slow unraveling of my boys’ childhood, and, like the snow falling away to reveal hidden treasures, seeing glimpses of who they are to become.
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. Her new book, “I’m Just Saying …,” is available wherever books are sold. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.