Last night was Liv's last softball game. It had been rained out twice, so the girls were chewing at the bit, ready to go.
Liv's friend, Andrea, was chosen to pitch the last game. If it stung, Liv wasn't saying. She, Andrea and Abby have been taking turns pitching all season and they were all about equal in talent. When Andrea was chosen, Abby took her place at first base and Liv at third. No complaints.
Bing and I sat in our lawn chairs, watching. Bing's back was hurting and she squirmed, trying to last the entire game. As usual, the evening was very warm, the sun in our eyes, boring down on our faces and necks. Bing pulled out her umbrella, but I let the rays wash over me. Part of the deal, I decided, with softball and swim meets. That hot sun always bearing down hard and unrelenting.
Liv is a serious player. About half of her team is and half not. The ones who aren't spend their time in the dugout giggling and listening to each other's ipods. Liv and the other serious players, watch intently, calling out encouragement and gripping the wire fencing with their fingers, anxious.
We were playing what Liv called "a poof team", girls who were more aware of how they looked in their uniforms than how they played. We had beat them before by a wide margin.
But, in this last tournament, it seemed that the poof team had suddenly gone dead serious. This time, they were more coached and less prone to show each other dance moves in the dugout or slip away to grab a beef jerky from the concession stand.
The girls on Liv's team held on to a 3 point lead until the last inning when the poof team suddenly scored two home runs with bases loaded and was then 4 points ahead. We had one more chance to win, but had to get five runs in. We had done it before and this team was not strong on their outfield.
One by one the girls went up to bat. Their pitcher, who was mediocre at best, suddenly seemed to come into her stride, striking out two of Liv's teammates in a row. It was Liv's turn to bat and my stomach was clenched. I knew hers was too. She did not want to be the last out, the one to lose the game. Strike one. Strike two. Ball one. Ball two. Ball three. And then, whew.....ball four and Liv walked to first. The pitcher threw the ball to the next girl up and Liv took off for second base, hell bent on getting there, no matter what. She made it. And then the bases were loaded. Liv on third. The bat cracked and the girls ran, Liv made it home and then the girl on second and first. The girl who had hit so well, decided to try for a home run.
And was put out as she ran for home. The game was over. We had lost by 2 points.
The season was over. No more practices on sultry Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons. No more cleets on Liv's slender ballerina feet. We walked to the car. I glanced over at Liv to see how she was handling it all. She looked placid. I asked her if she was upset. Not really, she said. There was always next year.
I wondered what she would be like next year. Last year, she had been an anxious almost 7th grader, nervous about letting her grade school days at Montessori go. Not sure if she was ready for junior high. Next year, she would be getting ready for high school.
High school. Who'da thunk it? Funny, it isn't as if I am an idiot. I mean, all those days when I was changing diapers and making fish sticks for her lunch, I knew that one day she would be in high school.
But, it still surprises me.
Like it surprises me how damn SMART she is already. She requested to take three summer classes at our local university this summer, designed for junior high kids. One was a class on astronomy, another on string theory for math. And then there was her last pick: a class on the study of DNA.
Leave it to my Hermione girl to have little interest in the other classes that her peers were interested in: Irish step dancing, Elizabethan acting, calligraphy, or still life drawing.
She laughed when I asked her if she would be interested in dance classes. She has had one dance class in her life and it was a flop. When she was six, I signed her up for ballet and she detested it. She told me later that she would consider jazz dance, but NO MORE BALLET.
She took one class of beginner's acting when she was 8. Thought it was stupid.
She nixed art of any kind, except for a conceptual string art class that she thought sounded kind of interesting.
After that, I left it up to her. Take any class or no class. Her choice. She usually chose swim team and maybe one class in some sort of science.
This year, she chose three classes. Actually four, if you count her basketball one, a two day mini course designed to improve her basketball skills.
She is just finishing up her class in DNA and I am a little in awe of her. In the car on the way home, she talks about complimentary base sequences, the idea of a double helix, crystal lattices (which I stupidly thought had somehow to do with doilies) and she is now fixated on something called DNA origami method, which I haven't asked about in depth, but I doubt has anything to do with those little origami cranes she used to make when she was bored.
I told Bing that when I drive her home, I feel as dumb as a doorknob. She confessed that she went and googled all of Liv's references so that she could talk semi-intelligently to her about them. I wish I had thought of that instead of smiling vacantly and hoping that I didn't give my ignorance away.
But, as we drove home from the game and Liv sat quietly in the back seat, punching her new glove, we passed a Dairy Queen and she piped up, "Is it okay if we stop so that I can get a cone with sprinkles?"
I felt a sense of still having my little girl. Bing and I exchanged parental glances and agreed to stop. And then after we got home, when Liv curled up on the floor with Socks and watched King of The Hill with him, I felt even better. And later that night when she and I went outside for one last check of the vegetables and she began singing softly,
Oh my darling, oh my darling...oh my darling Clementine....
well....my heart relaxed.
We still have time. We still have time. We still have time with our little girl.