Love comes in many forms and through many sources. You can’t always recognize it until you step back and look at your life. I remember something about love.
God and I would meet each morning on the front porch after Momma went to work. He watched while I played with the only doll I had. When God wasn’t around, my big brother was. Butchy was my big brother. Five years older than me, Butchy was my hero and he was my first love. After God.
Butchy and his friends all hung out in front of the old raggedy house we lived in when I was four years old. The grass that was supposed to be in the front yard had been worn into a dusty baseball diamond by Butchy and his friends. Home plate was right at our front door. They used cinder blocks from the dilapidated vacant house down the street that they had pilfered for the bases.
Each day, beginning with the first day of the summer, they would play for hours and hours from first light until the street lights came on. They had nick names like Mantle, Robinson, and Pepitone. They were serious about baseball. The games were loud and for a little girl watching from the porch, very exciting. All these big guys, every size and color, nine, ten and eleven years old, sweating, cursing and spitting, sliding into base, slapping their baseball glove with balled fists, and hitting home runs in our front yard. It was the most exciting thing in my whole young life.
I wanted to play. I wanted to wear a baseball cap and run around the bases. But I was a girl and girls were not allowed. It was the rule. Each day I watched the games from our porch. Me and God and Dolly. I knew all the players both by name and nick name. I knew the positions they liked to play and their particular stance and baseball idiosyncrasies. Butchy always chewed gum. He batted left-handed and always spit out of the right side of his mouth while hitting his left foot with the end of the bat before he settled into position to hit the ball. For some reason, Billy Nelson, would always stretch open his mouth into a wide side like yawn before he would pitch. The guys would tease him about catching flies with his mouth. David kept his left gloved hand behind his back. He played left field, bending over from the waist, his right arm rested on his right knee. He never smiled. Dave played shirtless each day. From the waist up, that skinny white boy was the same color as Butchy, but he had a blond crew cut and blue eyes.
One day, one very special day, my big brother, called a time out in the ninth inning. Butchy called me to the plate, and put the bat in my hand. With his big hands over mine, Butchy moved my hands into place on the bat and showed me where and how to stand at home plate. Once he was comfortable with how I was positioned, he removed his navy blue baseball cap with the white letters from his head and placed it on my head.
“Okay Billy,” he said, “Roll the ball on the ground so my sister can hit the ball.“
God said, “That’s love. “