FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Nothing like that childlike wonder
Welcome, friends, to the “front porch.”
Kids have something that most adults only dream about.
It’s what we call “childlike wonder.”
Childlike wonder is a child stepping up to home plate in the bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, down by three. And two strikes.
This is Game 7 of the World Series.
That’s how kids dream.
My new students and I discussed this topic this week, and it brought back a story that I hadn’t thought of in a good while.
To get there, we’ll have to go to 901 Juniper Street, La Grange, Georgia, somewhere in the 1960s.
It’s a story of childlike wonder.
My big brother Wayne invented a little game of imaginary baseball that he and I must have played a thousand times. Mainly we played it separately, but at times we’d try to do it together.
Our house on Juniper had some tall concrete steps leading up to it. We would stand on the edge of the street that ran in front of our house and throw a tennis ball against the steps and try to catch it. If we caught it – it was an out. If it got over our head, it might be a double or a triple.
Or even a homerun.
If we weren’t careful, the ball would get away from us, cross the street, and land in Mrs. Richardson’s yard. Her house was kind of in a hole, sitting a good 20 feet below ours. When the ball got by us, it might roll to the curb on the other side of the street; but more likely it would jump the curb and roll off of a five-foot retaining wall on the edge of her yard. It was a pretty big drop-off.
Of course, any time the ball cleared that wall it was an out-of-the-park homerun. We just had to hope that it happened when OUR team was up to bat.
Wayne and I both gave up our share of home runs through the years, but he was the only one to give up a tape measure homerun that landed in Mrs. Richardson’s bedroom. Of course, it had to travel through her window to get there. She wasn’t too happy about that, and it ended up costing Wayne more than a little change.
But he didn’t learn his lesson. He played that game until he was at least 16 years old. By that time the tennis ball had turned to a golf ball because a golf ball could really fly. Whenever he’d throw it a little too hard, it would get over his head, bounce across the street, jump the curb, and drop over that five-foot wall into Ms. Richardson’s yard.
The busted window was the only real damage that anybody sustained in all the years we played.
Except for one other time.
One day Wayne must have thrown a fast ball right down the middle of the plate, because that golf ball came off the steps like it was shot out of a cannon. Wayne foolishly thought he could track it down. He figured that if Mickey Mantle could chase down fly balls in Yankee Stadium, why couldn’t he do the same in the middle of Juniper Street?
Wayne went after that golf ball that day with lightning speed. He sprinted across the street, jumped the curb, and lunged for the ball, stretching out like a runner crossing the finish line. Before he knew it, he was flying through the air and falling headlong down that five-foot drop-off.
Wayne ended up breaking his arm in a couple of different places and getting placed on the injured reserve list.
But that wasn’t the worst part. It would be years later, after we both were grown, that he told me that.
“Steve,” he said with a sigh one day, “after I broke my arm, I never played that game again.”
But we all know how it is.
It’s always tough when we have to say goodbye to homeruns and World Series and two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
And childlike wonder.
Continuing to celebrate a quarter of a century of column-writing, beginning in 1997 – always welcome your comments: email@example.com