Spring has lit upon Dixie; and with spring, blooming flowers, chirping birds, squirming T-ball players and agitated T-ball coaches.
After Tuesday's attempted practice, my bow-wearing, sparkly cleat-desiring, would-a-princess-play-T-ball-wondering daughter caught a ride home with her patience-pursuing, teeth-clenching, who-volunteered-me-for-this-asking coach. She joined his four kids to make the back seat of his Volvo look like a bowl of Mustgo soup.
The coach's wife, my dear friend Charlotte, rode shotgun.
Headed northbound, approaching a traffic light in town, the coach, his nerves already worn to a nub by preemie athletes recklessly swinging bats - like bookies, too close to his knees - saw a southbound driver playing chicken with him. Momentarily, he froze. "If I die," he thought, "will parents remember me as a good coach, or ruminate on how I lost my cool, confiscated the ball, and yelled at the kids to just use their imaginations"?
When he gathered his wits and readied to swerve, a driver in the other lane veered toward the coach. Without room to react, he did what any God-fearing man with a wife, five kids and a T-ball reputation to fend for would: he hit the breaks and laid on the horn like Russians were dropping A-bombs.
All parties involved came to a screeching halt. Breathing deeply and appreciating life, Charlotte and her husband surveyed the backseat. The Mustgo soup sloshed a bit, but, unscathed, bantered on about the highlights of T-ball. So the rattled coach let off the brake and eased forward.
"Daddy, it's red," said a back seat driver, urgently.
Coach again pressed the brake pedal, and stopped next to the driver who had tried to merge into his lane, only to glimpse the guy miming a verbal assault behind a closed window. Charlotte, still gripping the dashboard and thinking what-if thoughts, spontaneously rolled down her window and shouted, "What did you say?"
Her oldest boy's head whipped forward. Having answered that question before, he advised the fellow, "It's a trick, buddy. Don't answer. Especially if whatever you said rhymes with 'bucket.'"
Too late. The other driver and Charlotte volleyed a torrent of unmentionable remarks and matronly reprimands. I suppose there's nothing like scraping against the barnacled sides of death to make a person forget herself.
Erstwhile, my daughter spotted a school chum in the offending vehicle. Delighted, she waved and giddily spurted, "K-a-a-a-a-a-telynn! Look, it's K-a-a-a-telynn! H-e-e-e-e-e-e-y, K-a-a-a-a-telynn," until all the coach's children chimed in with her.
Katelynn engaged in pediatric socializing behaviors of her own.
"Look Mama, it's K-a-a-a-a-a-telynn," one of Charlotte's brood called.
Suddenly sensing the stares of her scrutinizing charges, mortification clung to Charlotte like a wet T-shirt. She abruptly stopped yelling, began waving, and exclaimed, syrupy sweet, "H-e-e-e-y, K-a-a-a-telynn," then rolled up the window.
The light turned green, my daughter hummed "It's a Small World After All," and coach floored the gas, while the oldest boy asked his daddy, "What's a jackdonkey?"
The very next evening as I pushed my cart through the grocery store produce maze, my daughter, Miss Friendly, began waving her hands and jumping up and down, screeching, "H-e-e-e-e-e-y K-a-a-a-a-a-telynn! Mama, look, it's Katelynn. That's two nights in a row!"
Seeing the expressions on the faces of Katelynn's parents, I almost mustered the nerve to assure them that it was not two nights in a row for me. But, instead, I waved like a wild woman and shrieked, "H-e-e-e-e-e-y, K-a-a-a-a-telynn!"
Then I chafed against the barnacled sides of death wheeling into check-out lane No. 11.
(Lucy Adams is a Columbia County native and a McDuffie County resident.)
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