Summer of 2019.
36 (and a half) year old me, grass and dirt fields, 27 ounce end-loaded Louisville, cleats, gloves, SPN balls, and softball friends. That about sums it all up. Well at least on the face of it.
I don’t know if I can put words to it all. Words that dig deep and show what it means to me.
When you’re as old as you are.. have a family… work… commitments…you get the drift. When you’re desperately counting on your beloved support system in the form of your husband, parents, relatives, babysitters just so you can make it to the game.
When you’re bubble-wrapped with labels : Muslim Pakistani Canadian Immigrant Woman who isn’t expected to play sports at this age….let alone feel so passionate about a sport that is quite unknown in her culture.
It’s especially harder because it’s always been there. I first learned how to play Softball at school in Quetta(God Bless our principal for introducing the game to us)… more than 2 decades ago. A city where this was as alien as well.. aliens themselves. And then I caught a few glimpses of it in the hot and eager Lahori summers of grades 9 and 10. And that was that. I’d thought this chapter was closed forever. Until it wasn’t.
It’s especially harder when there is always the possibility of injury on the field.. and a mom of 3 can’t really afford that now can she ? A bruised eye.. a broken thumb…a twisted ankle or worse. Or when on some days your post-game body seeks mercy and tons of Tylenol because it hurts everywhere. But you get back up on your life-horse and trot on.
It’s especially harder to explain it to those bewildered and amused looks you sometimes get when you say you play in a softball league.
“Wow really?! The super excited ones.
Or “Oh.. softball?!” The taunting ones.
Or just the silent observers.
Now don’t worry. That’s as hard as it gets.
Because from there on it’s all soul-bursting happy. From there on it’s about exuberant butterflies in the stomach and a galloping heartbeat as I run towards home plate or hear the whip of my bat. From there on it’s all about those liberating and self-defining moments spent playing ball.
And then it’s the women I play with. It’s a LOT about them you know. This passion resurfaced because of them and Sisterhood Softball League (SSL) I am here playing softball, because of SSL. The acceptance. The love. The sisterhood. The motivation. The encouragement. The will. My summers are all about this inspirational juice.
Growing up, I loved sports movies. The underdogs beating the odds at the end and what not! The skills, the training.. the perseverance….oh I savoured every scene. I don’t know if we truly fall under the category. But I do know that we’ve all grown immensely. From Act One of the scene till now… it’s a new ballgame for many of us! Patience. Skills. Getting a hold of anxiety and nerves. Determination. Not giving up even if it feels physically impossible. Learning from defeats and the wins. Keeping your head held high, but with humility. This 90 minute crash course is as real as it gets.
I see that a lot of us are on the same boats. Boats that are bursting on the seams with life. Boats that are sometimes hard to maneuver because docking on a shore for some downtime seems impossible. But still… we manage to sail on by. Every Sunday morning.. or every other nightly game… we steer our boats away from the noise and dock at this safe place … our safe place…on the softball field.
So yes. I still don’t think I can explain it. But as I keep playing every season there will come a day when I won’t find the need to explain it anymore. Even to myself.
Because at that point I might(or might not) have subdued those raised eyebrows , the bewilderment, those self-doubts. But that won’t matter. Because I might have made a difference where it does matter.
For them to see me taking time out for practice and strategy. To see me anxiously gearing up on Sunday mornings and tip-toeing out the door at 7 am. Or to see me coming back sweaty, dirty, sore but ecstatic. For them to see my eyes light up just at the mention of softball.
For them it will be a norm. Something that mama has to do. And eventually they’ll realize the urgency of it all.
There will be things in life that they must do. While those actions may be hard to define, these same actions will define them. Actions , though within the boundaries of their religion and faith, may still be unacceptable.
And at any point if they stumble. I hope that they will remember how and why their mama played ball.