by Judith Allen
A journey to Opening Day, the love of the game, springtime and the sweet cotton candy.
|Joy of Baseball and Cotton Candy
Carrie was in a hurry. Her nephew, Ray, was waiting in the driveway for their one special day of the year. She knew he was drumming his fingers on the steering wheel and listening to the music that a teenager loved, but he did love this day together almost as much as she.
Carrie crossed her living room to the antique desk that stood in the corner. It was looking shabby and scarred now but as she pulled the center drawer open she remembered when it was new and her daddy had so much pride in sitting in his leather chair at this majestic desk. In his mind it was a sign of his success.
The middle drawer was swollen with age and dampness but she knew how much pressure it took to open it wide enough to extract the envelope that lay inside. It was where daddy had always kept it and contained the same treasure, but each year it was new and fresh and waiting to be opened.
This year, as in most years of her memory, she withdrew the precious Opening Day tickets for the Cincinnati Reds baseball game with a smile. She jammed the drawer shut and rushed to the door and the waiting Ray. As she cut through the garage she tripped, catching her foot on a rusty shovel which cluttered up the corner, along with boxes of old newspapers and an Out-of-Order tri-pod sign the city had left when they were there months ago fixing a water break. All these things needed attending, but not today she decided, as she rubbed her bruised ankle, grabbed her old Reds cap and limped out into the sunshine.
Ray was driving her car today. She was rather apprehensive about his driving but that had been part of the deal when he turned sixteen last year. It certainly added to the excitement. She frowned at the dented lamp post at the end of the driveway and glanced at the long scratch on the passenger side of the car. It wasn't very deep and Ray said he could fix it so no one would notice. All he needed was a paint brush and some red paint. So far he hadn't gotten around to it and she was just as happy about that because she thought it probably should have more done than Ray suggested.
Driving in downtown Cincinnati was a challenge for Ray, too. Especially on game day, even more so on Opening Day. She grabbed the Rosary from her purse, fastened her seat belt and prayed for no flashing colored lights attached to a black-and -white as they made their way to the park. Ray only got mixed up and crossed the bridge into Kentucky once. Otherwise the drive was uneventful and Carrie sighed with relief, stashed the Rosary and clutched the ball tickets as they crossed the parking lot with the noisy crowd intent on enjoying this rite of springtime.
Carrie loved baseball. It didn't matter if it was sandlot, pee-wee, minor or major league field.
She loved the whirring sound of the ball as it left the pitcher's hand and landed in the catcher's mitt. She loved the sound of the bat as it made contact with the ball and, if it was solid enough and hit perfectly, sent it sailing above the stand like a UFO as the crowd craned their necks to watch it fly out of sight. She loved the excitement of hearing "Home Run!" and even "Strike Three, You're OUT!" against the opposing team.
She loved the feel of the sun on her face, the crowd around her so full of life and excitement. The parents and the little kids at their first game. She loved the flag fluttering in the breeze. Everyone rising for the National Anthem, big burly men who could drink beer and eat peanuts while they were still in the shell taking off their hats and holding hands on their hearts, some with tears, some even singing. And then a roar of applause and the beloved words of the season, starting the dream all over again. Play Ball!
She loved her nephew sitting beside her. His seat was already littered with hot dog wrappers and cups and Cracker Jack boxes and the game had hardly begun. Thank goodness his mother had sent him with some money. He seemed determined to spend it all on his stomach. She was sure she would have to drive home today because he was already looking a little green around the gills.
But the one thing that brought back more memories than others was the smell, the sugary taste, the sticky feel of cotton candy on a stick. A delight to the senses and a magical wonder of culinary creation.
Would it be dignified for a lady of a certain age to be found with the pink and blue tufts of candy on her nose? The film of sugar on her chin and fingers? The smile of sheer pleasure from something that is not at all good for your body, but satisfies the memory of daddy and fun and days gone by??
She looked around her and saw herself in the little kids with messy faces and big smiles. She saw her daddy in the pride of the fathers sneaking a bite of fluff here and there and ruffling their kids hair. It was almost always dads. Moms were too concerned about sugar and cavities and mess. Maybe their dads were reliving their first days at ball parks across the county, Carrie thought.
Carrie decided that dignity was over-rated. The next time a vendor went by she rose from her seat and took the offered treat with the eagerness she had had at five years old. "That will be three dollars, ma'm." Three dollars! But, it use to be twenty-five cents just a few years ago! Could it really be that long ago?
Carrie enjoyed every bite, puff of airy sugar and sticky fingers and nose. The memory was worth the money. At least this one time.