Tomorrow is the first day of school vacation for Megan and Kyle. I can only hope they enjoy a summer like one of mine…
On the first day of summer vacation in 1969, a ten year old boy walked sheepishly from 10 Pine Street down to Mapleway Playground, his brown-reddish locks a memory, having been sheared off a couple days earlier by Russ the barber on Main Street, just a couple doors down from the Greenwood Pharmacy and across the street from the Post Office. Yes, his mother had sentenced him to a crew-cut before school got out for the summer, an indignity he no doubt remembers to this day. (He does…) After all, while the look might have been cool for punk kids in ’79, in ’69, a “skinner” got you numerous cuffs off the back of the head to “christen” the new do. Not to mention giggles from the ladies. Thanks, Mom.
The walk to Mapleway was a short one, just down Greenwood Ave and past the mysterious High Street that no one ever dared travel, either because it was too creepy or just too damn steep. Entering the stone gates of the park, he carried the only thing he needed: his prized baseball glove, a Yaz Triple Crown model, ready to track down anything hit to left field.
They played inning after inning that summer and the games blurred from one day to the next. No one ever went home for lunch, but they always stopped when they’d hear the familiar tones of Andy the Ice Cream Man arriving in his square Hood ice cream truck. He always got Italian Ice and made sure the last drippings substituted for pine tar to ensure an iron grip on his favorite wooden Mickey Mantle bat.
One day after break, some of the older kids asked him to pitch in a game on the Little-League sized field. What an honor! These were Little League all-stars or kids already in Babe Ruth. As he toed the rubber, he wondered whether to throw the nasty new deuce or just bring the heat. They didn’t use catchers, so he wasn’t getting any suggestions. After a perfect Jim Lonborg windup, he unleashed the fury. His next act was to grab his mouth and feel for teeth after the batter smoked a line drive right back to his kisser. Incredibly, the chicklets were intact and there was no blood, just a huge blood blister under his upper lip. Welcome to The Show, kid.
He loved to hit, and like the Mick, went up to bat looking to homer “every time.” Unfortunately, there were no outfield fences at Mapleway except for the one shielding the tennis courts in right field of the big field, but it was 350’ away and no ten year old right handed hitters were getting near it. Besides, there usually weren’t enough kids for all positions, so there was a “no hitting to right” rule for the rightys. They hit. They ran. They argued close calls. They climbed the backstop fence to retrieve stuck popups because it was their only good ball. It was an endless summer when every day was Saturday.
Then one day it was Monday, but after that summer of love, his hair had grown back and he could safely return to school for 6th grade.