A year ago this spring, my husband mysteriously confided in me, “Soon, there will be a ripple of excitement going through your friends.” I swear, he actually said, “ripple of excitement.” xxxxxxxI pondered the possibilities. Were our husbands sending us out for a week at Coldwater Canyon? Had they struck it rich in some crazy stock scheme? Had they convinced Oprah to use us all for her next beauty makeover special?
I pressed him to reveal his secret. Finally, he confessed: He had taken my advice. He was going to start playing softball with guys he liked. No longer would he consent to play with any team that had an opening for a shortstop. He had, in fact, decided to start his very own team. He was drafting the husbands of many of my closest friends. These were the friends, mind you, who for years had felt sorry for me because I had a husband who played softball two nights a week. On two different teams. At two different parks.
I looked at him like he was crazy. Why would I want to drag our small children out to a ballpark in the middle of Nashville’s mosquito-infested summer heat when they could be at the Bellevue Center inside playground? Perhaps he thought I would be intoxicated by the aroma of sweaty jerseys and rubber thigh braces that cluttered the laundry room. Maybe he thought a wife should be comforted to know just where her husband was going to be every Monday night for the rest of the summer.
I told Steve that I didn’t think “ripple of excitement” would describe my friends’ reaction to the news that their husbands were taking up softball. I was right.
The very next morning, when I met Mary for our walk, she came stomping out of her house, sputtering, “Your husband! Ed has some crazy idea he wants to play softball! Your husband!” I tried to assure Maryand Jan and Maribeth and Pamelathat, if we all went together and brought the kids, we might actually have fun. They were not convinced.
I have spent years learning how to be a softball wife. When I met the man who would later become my husband, it was November, so softball wasn’t an issue. I knew he had played baseball in college. In fact, this was part of the initial attraction. I am a devoted baseball fan. I had even dated a couple of professional ball players. They were always in good shape, they were always financially secure, and they could always get free seats for the game. But never did I want to marry one. I had no desire to go to every single stinking game,waiting for hours in the musty wives’ room while they changed, had a massage, iced down, ate dinner, had a beer and, finally, fetched you. I knew, deep in my heart, that in a few years they would be selling insurance or hosting a casino in Atlantic City. No thanks.
By the time I met Steve, my ball-player-dating days were over, but it was great to date somebody who loved the game as much as I did, somebody who could tear up while watching The Natural. Before long, I discovered that Steve hadn’t exactly retired his jersey. He had just traded his baseball for a softball.
By February, he was shopping for new cleats. By March, he and his buddies were out on a muddy field, throwing and catching and batting. By April, we were deep into it. I had never been to a softball game before I met Steve. I thought it would be like going to a baseball game, only smaller. Wrong.
The park wasn’t as nice. The seats weren’t as comfortable. The bathrooms had no toilet paper. There were no friendly vendors working the stands. And, worst of all, there was NO BEER!
Still, before we married, I showed up for a lot of the games. Steve got annoyed when I brought along reading material. He claimed I always missed his big plays because I had my head buried in a book. I never really struck up a friendship with the other women in the stands. They all seemed to know each other already.
I began to grow weary of his softball obsession (he played three nights a week), and we started to bicker about it. Then, one terrible winter, he had knee surgery. For one entire, horrible, endless summer, Steve couldn’t play ball. It was heartbreaking. Steve was just miserable. Steve without ball wasn’t Steve at all. I vowed to be more understanding.
I’d like to think I have been. The 328 Performance Hall Team is now in its second season, and, let’s be honest, they’re struggling.
Things haven’t quite worked out the way Steve pictured them. My friends came out once last year, and that was enough. We discovered, quickly enough, that we don’t need our husbands’ ball games as an excuse to get together. What’s more, their night out gives us license to take one of our own. Without the wives and kids around, the guys can feel free to go on to their favorite bar, Greenlands, where they drink beer, eat wings, and replay the game.
Every time he comes home hurt or sore or injured and feeling every one of his 41 years, I think the time is coming for Steve to hang up his cleats. He assures me that he’ll still be playing until he’s a senior citizen. I hope he does. Because if that’s not enough to cause a ripple of excitement, I don’t know what is.
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