We thought our lives were hectic. We thought we juggled jerseys, cleats, equipment, and expectations, and despite the boundless energy we possessed as 12 year olds, we always seemed to be exhausted with it by the end of the day, every day.
For me and my three closest friends, the Spring of 6th grade was undeniably exciting and maddeningly dizzy at the same time. We each played Little League baseball at the same park, and we also played, for the first time, on a traveling select soccer team. From February through June, we all faced daily practices and games, and we often had to attempt to pull double duty to miss as little time as possible in each sport.
We thought we were important. We were, I suppose, at least in baseball where we were the oldest of the bunch. Between traveling to play sports, being the oldest in a league for the first time, and experiencing middle school, we thought we were busy, committed, responsible human beings. We were, too, and that was the point beyond anything, a point we didn't realize at the time but that was quite obviously the theme behind why our parents set us on that course. Being busy, handling multiple commitments, and establishing accountability are three of the most important things a kid can learn, and that's what we were being taught the whole time; we didn't realize that fully then of course, but we sure as hell felt important, and that was pretty cool, too.
I cannot begin to explain how, in hindsight, our parents ever dealt with it. I can't even honestly tell you that the first 12 months of our existence would've taken more time and demand than those 5. I can't. Our competitive nature and love of sport kept them in an endless cycle of mass transport and support. And though I didn't process it fully at the time, it was usually our mothers who were behind it all. Three of our dads traveled extensively for work, and the other was a doctor who was routinely on call and working around the clock. The result was that our moms attempted to deal with their jobs and daily life while also shuttling us to and from things...and watching them, too.
Complicating things was that we all went to the same school, and that school operated on a different schedule than any other in the city. We started at 9, but the final bell didn't ring until 4:05pm. Since every other school in the city was out by 3:30pm, practices and games started at either 4 or 4:30pm and that, of course, meant that we weren't just constantly trying to get places, we were constantly trying to get there in a hurry. A massive hurry, most times. We all carpooled (as we had for the previous 8 years), and 4:05pm meant dead sprints to the car where there would be bags full of uniforms, gloves, and cleats allowing the back of the minivan to turn in to a locker room. We'd roll in hot to Ecton Park or the Berea Road soccer fields, get dropped off curbside, and sprint like bats out of hell to make first pitch or kickoff.
If you were at all competitive and took these things seriously, as we did, it was stressful. If I was pitching that day, my warmup would generally consist of throwing someone's socks to the shotgun seat from the back while fighting through being a window seat in an impromptu game of Jello. For our moms, however, I can't imagine the stress level involved (especially since my friends all had younger siblings). When we would bitch and moan when our coaches would finally call for end-of-practice sprints, I can only imagine the collective sigh of relief each one of our moms thought.
I feel I should emphasize that that Spring, with all of its stress and fury, was fun. It may well have been the most fun we ever had in childhoods that, by all accounts, were blessed with lots of it. In the coming years things would settle down a bit as we got older, got driver's licenses, and picked and chose sports that didn't always overlap, but that first year was a glorious example of four moms and sons scrapping and clawing at both the clock and each other to allow us the chance to grow and have fun.
I am, and will be forever grateful for that opportunity, and I can't begin to thank my mom and their moms for the things they willingly threw aside to provide us that chance. Someday, I hope my kids have the chance to experience something similar, though I can't believe we'll ever be as successful as our moms were at making it happen.
I mention all of this for several reasons, the first obviously being that it's Mother's Day. I also mention this because one of those three friends, all of whom I'm still extremely close with, lost his mom to her 3+ year battle with cancer early Thursday morning. I've spent the better part of three days thinking of all the ways she impacted my life and how often she and my mom helped us by helping each other when their lives were so, so much busier than ours. I thanked her often before for the things she gave me, but I certainly wish I'd made the effort to do so more often. She deserved it, my mom deserves it, and so, so many moms out there deserve it, too.
That Major League Baseball has partnered with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to bring awareness to breast cancer on Mother's Day has always resonated with me as a brilliant idea, and I applaud both organizations and the players for emphasizing it as they do. This year, of course, it means a bit more to me. If you can, I encourage you to visit Susan G. Komen for the Cure's website, komen.org, or any of the other foundations and societies that provide cancer research or support and donate what you can, be it time, money, effort, volunteering, or any combination thereof. It's the least we can do to help.
Thank you for everything, Wende. We'll miss you.