Left to my own devices each weekday of summer, I became quite adept at navigating this solo world of play. On the alternate days when I didn’t have a softball game, I figured out a way to play catch with myself. My mother bought a net that was strung between a metal square. If you threw the softball directly into the sweet spot it bounced directly back to you. I thought I was making a good decision when I placed the net in front of the garage. Because our driveway faced Van Dyke road, I didn’t want to throw the ball directly into what I loosely will call “traffic” (the random neighbor’s car). Perhaps I overestimated my throwing accuracy. Hitting the target several times in a row, I gained the confidence to throw harder. I “wound up” and let the ball fly. Missing the target completely, the ball shattered the glass window of the garage door.
I panicked. I looked around to see if anyone saw. There was no one there. Only my banana seat bike. It seemed to be the only answer. I dropped my glove and straddled the banana seat. Kicking the air. Trying desperately to keep up with the pedals as I raced down the hill toward the North End. The North End was the undeveloped land at the end of our neighborhood. Undeveloped by housing, but certainly overdeveloped in every school age kid’s mind that lived on this road. It was where every bad thing imagined or otherwise was sent to live. It was the threat of the unknown. The Bermuda Triangle of this small Minnesota town. Exactly the place where thieves or window breakers would go to hide. I threw my bike into the side of the gravel pit and waited.
It could have been hours, or a lifetime, I’m not sure how long. I imagined my story. It was robbers who did it. Certainly bad people who just wandered by while I was innocently playing. Or maybe it was one the Norton girls. Surely I could throw the blame at one of them. I kicked the dust with my bumper tennis shoes and thought and thought and thought.
When I first heard my name called, I was sure it was the police. I held my breath. I heard it again. It became louder, but not angry. Almost sweet. Almost welcoming. I knew that voice. I got on my bike and rode towards it. My mother stood at the top of the hill. Every excuse fell from my heart and hands as I dropped my bike beside her on the gravel road. “I did it,” I said, hugging her nyloned work legs. “I know,” she said. We walked my bike back home.
Love will always call your name. Heart open, I walk the road. And listen.