America’s Favorite Pastime

I spent Memorial Day weekend at my brother’s house in Wisconsin, working desperately on my never-ending quest to achieve Favorite Aunt status with my two nephews. My plan entailed a carefully structured regimen of:
1. Candy distribution
2. Lego’s construction
3. Ant-farm observation
4. Star Wars viewing
I was well on my way to accomplishing this goal when Elliott and Anthony begged me to play baseball with them again in the back yard. Having spent a few summers on a neighborhood softball team as a kid, I figured this would be right up my alley. Both boys wanted to bat, so I alternated pitching to them and cheering them on with each hit. I taught them all the good banter:
“Hey, batter, batter, batter. Swing!”
“Whoa! I felt a breeze from your bat, you swung that so hard!”
“C’mon! Put a little pepper on that baby!”
“Yeah! You really got a piece of that one!”
“Hot grounder, coming at you!”
“And he knocks it out of the park! The crowd goes wild!”
After a couple times at bat each, my older nephew, Elliott, suggested that I start hitting some balls to them so they could practice their catching. He ran out to the outfield for the pop flies, while Anthony stayed a little closer to catch the grounders.
And this is where my quest for Favorite Aunt status took a serious detour: Elliott was yelling for me to hit him some more fly balls because I had hit three grounders in a row to Anthony. Ever the fair and balanced aunt, I tossed the ball up, swung the bat, and watched in horror as the ball rocketed straight into the wide-eyed and unsuspecting face of my five year old nephew.
I paused a second before reacting, waiting to gauge my nephew’s reaction. And then it came – the silent, tearless cry that signals great tragedy. I dropped the bat immediately and ran over to him, pulling his tiny mitt away from his face. Oh god. Please not his eye. My brother’s an ophthalmologist – he cannot have a one-eyed son! Oh, his eyes are fine, but welling with tears. Nose! Not a tiny broken nose! How would they even set it? But his nose looked fine. Oh shit. He’s holding his mouth. I hit him in the mouth. Good god, I knocked all my five year old nephew’s teeth out! His tiny, sweet, baby teeth. His mother will never forgive me! But… there was no blood! All his teeth were intact! Not even a swollen lip!
I hugged Anthony tightly and asked him if he wanted to go inside. He just held his hand to his mouth and said, “No… [sniff] I… [sniff] just want… [sniff] to bat… [sob!]
“You want to bat some more? Of course you can bat! You’re such a tough little guy, aren’t you? I’m so proud of you. And you know what’s great about this? Now you and I have a secret, don’t we? Yeah. We won’t tell anyone – especially not your mommy or daddy – that I hit a line drive into your face, will we? That’ll be our little secret.”
He shook his glove off and rubbed his eyes with both hands. “But mommy says secrets are bad.”
I looked around the yard, then leaned in close to Anthony and said, “No, honey. Secrets aren’t bad. Lies are bad. You should never lie. But secrets are good. Secrets are what good friends share. It’s like in that movie Spy Kids – they had to keep secrets in order to catch the bad guys, didn’t they?”
Spy Kids is Elliott’s movie. He never lets me watch it. I don’t like that movie.”
“Oh. Well, you like Lord of the Rings, right? With Gollum? And you know how the hobbits – Bilbo and Harpo – had to keep the ring a secret from everybody? That was a good secret – see?”
“His name is Frodo. I like Lord of the Rings. I saw that three times already.”
“Right – Frodo! So you and me, we’re going to be just like Frodo and Harpo. Keeping secrets, and finding treasure, and killing bad guys. Now why don’t you go grab that bat and show me how you can knock it out of the park?”
The entire time I was tending to my wounded warrior, his older brother was pacing around the back yard and rolling his eyes. When he saw Anthony grab the bat, Elliott threw down his glove and came running over to me.
“Aunt Jenny! Anthony can’t bat! It’s my turn to bat! He just got to bat!”
“Elliott! Your brother just got hit in the face with a ball, and I told him he could bat. You can bat after him.”
“That’s no fair! So what if he got hit. He’s a big baby! I want to bat.”
“Look, Elliott. I hit Anthony in the face with the ball, and I feel really bad about that, so Anthony is batting right now. And if I hit you in the face with a ball, I’ll let you bat twenty times in a row, okay?”
“Do you promise?”
“Yes, I promise.”

7 Responses to “America’s Favorite Pastime”

  1. Robert Says:

    Now them’s some serious negotiatin’ skills!

  2. jill Says:

    After that, I’m suprised he didn’t dive in front of the next pitch! You are a true trooper, Aunt Jenny!

  3. teahouseblossom Says:

    I think your status as favorite aunt is very safe!

  4. Jenny Says:

    Oh, and I left out the part where I told my girl-crazy five year old nephew that the ladies love a man with a scar…

    I guess it’s just a darn good thing my brother and sister-in-law don’t read this site!

  5. hooizz Says:

    dare i just call you sporty spice? ha!

  6. heidi Says:

    I was hit in the face with a softball when I was about 7 or 8. My Dad was trying to teach me how to bat.
    I pretty much lost my interest in playing ball ever again at that moment. So way to go, Anthony, for sticking with it.

  7. Mateo Says:

    You are absolutely hilarious, just as you always have been. I can picture the entire event in my mind. You must rank as the favorite aunt!