Home Run

Home Run

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

Home Run

Sometimes you don’t know how courageous you are until disaster strikes and you find yourself, much to your own surprise, doing what needs to be done.

Wilfred Rand

I was ten. Life that summer was softball, climbing trees, pollywog hunting and bike riding, in that order.

Our city street was made for softball. A well-hit grounder could skip for a mile down that paved “field.” There was, thankfully, very little traffic to disrupt our practice and games. Whenever a car would approach, we simply ambled off to the curbsides, waving to the driver as he or she passed.

Amazingly, I remember not a single accident, mishap or problem with this arrangement . . . except one. Just one.

The instant that softball shot off from my bat, I knew I had messed up. Big time. In a neighborhood graced with houses lining both sides of the street, room for error was limited. Hours upon hours of practice greatly improved our odds of keeping the ball between curbs and thereby avoiding houses, lawns and cars parked in driveways. Any ball hit beyond either curb was, by necessity, a foul.

Immediately following the earsplitting shatter of that enormous square of glass, my teammates split to parts unknown. This was indeed a grave situation and not the time to contemplate the obvious fact that I had a flock of chickens for friends.

Now, the Hansons were not trolls. Well, at least as long as no one was trip-trap-trip-trapping over their lawn. Up to this point, they had never, as far as I knew, killed any neighbor child. But, this was a serious offense.

Being one of eight kids and the daughter of a milkman, I was aware that, mostly, money was for essential things—not to be taken lightly. I also knew, instinctively, that my dad would replace that window. I was a minor child. My dad was my dad and responsible for me—for better or worse. He would pay for the window because I broke it. Simple as that. The Hansons had a giant jagged gaping hole in the front of their house, and I had put it there.

I finally set my bat down, not wanting to carry a smoking gun with me on this particular journey. Suddenly, each leg weighed about a hundred pounds, as I trudged up the walkway to the porch of the House of Horrors.

No need to knock. Mrs. Hanson wasted no time greeting me, with the door wide open, and escorted me inside to this new vantage point of the crime scene. Like a stoic wooden judge, her grandson’s highchair stood starkly in that very room. Mrs. Hanson was saying, “What if he had been sitting there?” Even though the baby was not in the house, the highchair was several yards from the window, and the window screen was still intact, I absolutely felt as if I had killed the baby.

About a year later, I was released and walked down the sidewalk, toward home. I wondered if it were possible to feel any worse. Now, I had to face my dad with what I had done.

I was surprised to see Mr. Terryberry leaving my house. He was an across-the-street neighbor and had never come over before. His son and daughter were on my street softball team—part of the chicken clutch.

I wondered briefly if perhaps his kids had told him what I did. Or, maybe he was an eyewitness, and he had come over to squeal to my dad.

I knew I was not going to get hit. I knew I wouldn’t even get yelled at. But, my dad would no doubt say, “Man!” in an agitated manner, and he might grumble for a few seconds, before walking next door to apologize and measure the hole where the window belonged. Then he would drive off to buy the replacement.

He would be disappointed. And, it was my fault.

When I walked in the door and stepped into our living room, my dad was right there to meet me. I avoided looking right at him, but plainly heard what he said: “I am proud of you.”

Oh great. There was some kind of enormous misunderstanding. Anxious to enlighten him and get the truth out, I blurted, “I was the one who hit the ball!”

“I know,” my dad said. He had kind eyes. “Mr. Terry-berry saw the whole thing.”

I was still confused. I was missing something here. My dad, Mr. Character, was proud of me?

He told me Mr. Terryberry had seen his son pitch the ball to me, saw me belt it, saw the window shatter, and could hardly believe his eyes when his kids and the others hightailed it and left me standing to face the music alone. He thought that I would surely drop that bat and follow the others. He said that he was pleasantly surprised to see me walk up, instead, to face Mrs. Hanson.

Mr. Terryberry told my dad, “I am as proud of your kid as I am ashamed of my own.”

And, it was Mr. Terryberry who bought the replacement window—and would not accept any argument.

My dad was proud of me and I was on Cloud Nine . . . until he said no more batting in the street—only ball and gloves.

But, Cloud Eight didn’t feel too shabby.

Alison Peters

PICKLES. ©2001, The Washington Post Writers Group. Reprinted with permission.

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