On a Saturday in April, you and your dog arrive at the field with the others. Everyone drifts to the bleachers. On the diamond, players are beginning to form, break, and reform in their practice maneuvers as if engaged in a formal dance. It is game day on this spring day in Florida.
Your dog greets “Cody,” another dog, the unofficial team mascot. Your dog also has a human name and with the people who are the parents of the players, you begin to speak in dog owner code. The people often become vicious when they stop paying attention to the dogs. You’ve been there before, in moments like that, but today, there is dog talk, and the sky is blue, and there are events on other fields, and there is cheering and clapping and buses rolling up for the pole vault, the dashes, the hurdles at the high school. There is a lot to attend and just about everyone seems happy. Besides that, there is clover.
Inevitably, though, a relative of yours criticizes your dog owner choices, a special characteristic of hers that is well known among family members. She questions you over and over and over in a variety of ways, comparing your dog owner approaches to her superior ones. It is time for you to break from this particular quadrille. There is another dance you do, a maneuver necessitated by the sometimes too-closeness of others. There is a narrow strip of trees between fields and while it is not deep enough to escape screams and cheers, it is cool and dappled enough to invite a stroll.
You leave your husband keeping score. You pass your son pitching to his best friend. They are throwing in the clover. He says “Hi Mom” and you say “Hi sweetie,” and you think, Should I stay? Should I watch him throw to his friend? And as you walk on and say no more, you realize that today, someone said “Hi Mom” to you and today you had the privilege of saying “Hi sweetie” and you think you have taught him everything you know and he will continue to learn, on his own, how to throw the ball until it stings someone’s hand, until it eludes someone swinging a stick.
Your dog seems happy in the dappled woods, or is it your mood that makes you see her that way? These aren’t perfect woods. There is a pond blooming with algae. There is a plastic sign on a tree along a sidewalk offering Tai Chi instructions. You stay off all sidewalks.
When you return back to the sunshine, you see a man playing basketball. He is a man about fifteen years your senior and he has lost the ball and it’s rolling toward your feet. “A ball,” you think. How long has it been since you’ve thrown a ball? And you laugh with him that it’s been a long time and you throw.
At the field, someone is nice to you, someone who hadn’t been as friendly toward you when she first arrived. You are relieved. You think you know the reason for this person’s attitude and possible feelings, but you are glad you don’t really know.
The umpire is performing magnificently behind the plate. The players and parents have never seen anything like it. His voice is the tearing of lightning. His movements are those of an archangel. During the last game, the game that you missed because of your depression, tremendous fights had broken out. You think, “Thank God he is here.” And you sit in a chair, apart from everyone, and feel the thrum of the calls deep in your chest, this relief, this gap in the oppressive heat that is a Florida spring.