Sunday, July 22, 2012

Unbridled Enthusiasm

My daughter Lizzy is on a softball team that is on a softball team that is winning, which means they are still playing since this is all-star season in Little League.  People ask me if she's happy and I say yes, but in reality the parents' emotions are far more engaged in the win/loss equation.  The girls really have been happy just to be playing.

Milford Softball All-Stars winning sectionals
Photo by Stephen Ball
Have you been to a girls' softball game?  Or volleyball?  They're chanting sports because they're so team-oriented and the field (as opposed to soccer) is small enough that your chants have power.  It feels like a revival meeting sometimes with the calling out and answering, the girls all lined up against the backstop:   "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Cally stole second and we're gonna shout it! CALLY STOLE SECOND! Noooo doubt about it..."  They dance in the infield, and smack their heels to denote the number of outs in the outfield. At the end of some games there's a pig pile on the pitchers' mound with both teams together.  It's a feel-good experience.

Now here's the caveat:  Lizzy's team has become more muted as they move up, and the chanting from the last game was largely from the parents, and it was borderline nasty.  Yelling at umps (our side).  A coach (their side) harassing his own pitcher with screaming aggressive chants of of "Dig Deep Claire!" and "You gotta want it, Claire!" and "Show 'em what you're made of, Claire!"  Dozens of times, over and over.  It was awful, actually.  I felt bad for Claire.  She's eleven years old.

The coaches of Lizzy's team are nearly perfect, which is a nice kind of cosmic justice--calm, caring, instructional, stern, smart.  They're also focused and hard-working and they've crafted this team of girls into their image and thus, less chanting over time as the stakes go up.  They're in the state championship series for their age group starting today and I don't expect a lot of noise by the girls, who have taken on a kind of warrior persona that's a bit daunting, actually.  No, now it's the parents gone wild, which isn't quite as much fun.  Always a devoted but lackadaisical spectator, I am no longer reading on the sidelines.  I jump up when Lizzy goes to the On-Deck circle in anxiety and excitement and leap and cheer if she gets a hit.  It can't be helped.

If she could see me, which luckily she can't, she would give me not the adorable thumbs-up of a year ago, or even a big, beaming smile.  No, once she turned eleven on Memorial Day weekend, she turned into a pre-teen and they, apparently, quickly master cool disdain.  She gives me the Look, which says "please don't embarrass me further, mother" that I am still getting in nearly-lethal doses by her fifteen-year-old sister Ciara.  It's not quite fair that when one's baby crosses this Rubicon there's no compensation given.  In April we went on an awesome baseball road trip where she kissed me not only good night but good morning, and sometimes good afternoon.  That golden era, of age 8 to 10 (my mother remembers it as 8-12 and maybe there are remnants for awhile.  She crawled into bed with me last night) when kids think their parents are the be-all, end-all destination for good times and wisdom. After games now when I ask her questions rather than wanting to discuss it with me she just looks out the window, probably thinking of her coaches' words instead.  Sigh.

Saying Hello (or Good-bye) at Camp Horizons 
No, for my own fan base I'm going to have to go back to Camp Horizons.  They seem to be the epicenter for unbridled enthusiasm in my world.  When I brought Billy to camp in late June there were dozens (I kid you not) of campers and counselors screaming his name as we arrived, dancing and jumping and they had never met him.  I thought it remarkable that they could exude such joy out into the universe of strangers-to-be-friends.  The culture was so incredibly positive that it carried me through the next few days of calls about problems he was having at camp, all of which had the same competent, caring, upbeat tone.  He can't wait to go back in a couple of weeks and, frankly, neither can I.  They cheered my husband and I when we arrived to pick up Billy as well, which Mark of course had a comment about regarding their motivation to get Billy home but I accepted as the shout-out that I'm sure it was:  you're great.  I'll try my best to return the sentiment in the forum they prefer (matching funds for their all-year expansion and an air-conditioned dining hall). If you want a lift, look through their photo gallery:  http://www.horizonsct.org/photogallery/camp/2011/sum02/index.htm

Because joy is contagious and preserving it hard.

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