Southwords

The Evening Merriment

Getting a kick out of summertime

By Eileen Phelps

The deserted street was silent, punctuated only by the hum of mosquitoes searching for a tasty arm to nibble. Not a soul was visible, not even a hungry squirrel hunting for buried nuts. Dinnertime. All the children had been summoned to their family meals. Their absence created a vacuum of silence. Temporary. Fleeting. The calm before the storm.

In an instant, a cacophony of voices ignited the street. As if at once children burst from their homes, anxious to get on with the evening’s passion — the nightly neighborhood kickball game. Oh, I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it was the highlight of our summer evenings. From late spring when the days grew longer until early fall when school signified the return to schedules and early bedtimes, the kids loved their daily dose of excitement.

The bases weren’t fancy. The mailbox post was transformed into home plate. Rocks, frisbees, and an occasional log served as stepping stones to scoring runs. There wasn’t time for arguments or rock, paper, scissors; everyone wanted to play every minute they could squeeze in before dark. Disputes were settled with a nod in order to keep the game going. Cooperation was the unwritten rule as the competition, no matter how frenzied, required no adult intervention. No one was left out of the festivities. If you didn’t kick well, maybe you were a speedy runner or a superb pitcher. Everyone was good at something. Age wasn’t an issue. Holding hands with older players, little tykes were escorted to shortened bases where they enthusiastically cheered for themselves, as the older kids laughed at their silliness and applauded their successes. The commotion of joyful voices, mixed with shouted directions to teammates and scurrying children, led to sheer exhaustion by dusk.

As quickly as it began, it stopped. Adult voices beckoned the players home to the comfort of their beds as darkness blanketed the concrete field. The shadows disappeared into the night. The street returned to its hushed self, awaiting the next day’s contest. Only the drone of mosquito wings pierced the silence. PS

Eileen Phelps is a retired Pinehurst Elementary teacher who loves reading, writing and spending time with her 10 grandchildren.

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