Yesterday afternoon my daughter transformed. I always thought it would happen like me, with a speech at a public event or a blue medal science fair project. For my girl, it was America’s favorite pastime, during the championship game.
I gently nudged Twinkle to play a team sport this summer. After all she has been through in her little life, she was finally healthy and strong and ready. Baseball, the sport for athletic thinkers, was our choice.
Over the season the girls came alive, learning to depend on each other and to trust in each other. They fostered bonds that crossed school districts, ages and family backgrounds. Through the love of the game, and the honor of being part of a team, they grew into champions. Yesterday, in a nail-biter game that was neck and neck until the very last out of the very last inning, our babies turned into ball players.
My girl, my little lady who has fought tooth and nail for health and normalcy, was gifted the opportunity to play second base. I was a mom divided, half of me begging for three strike outs so she didn’t have a chance to fail, half of me knowing that she really was good enough to be there, to play hard and try her best. First out was a strike out. Next batter makes it to first. The next hit is a hard line drive straight at Twinkle. She scoops it up like a human vacuum cleaner, sees that no one is covering the bag, outruns the base runner, falls while touching the bag, gets toppled on and HOLDS THE BALL. My girl, the one I feared would never be strong enough to play sports, clung to the ball as she was run over for an out.
Next ball is hit in the same place, same play but this time she gets to the bag on her feet. The runner steps off the bag and my daughter tags her out. Tags her out. She remembered how this game worked, stuck with it, and got her team out of the inning. I have never seen her try that hard at anything in her life. In that moment of triumph, all I could see was a young lady, full of pride and surrounded by friends, leaving the field in a bubble of excitement. She shed years of loneliness and sadness, leaving it on the field in favor of friendships and pride.
I wish I could say those outs ended the game. I wish I could recount her being carried off the field to a cheering crowd and songs of victory. Perhaps in another 20 years when I tell this story at her wedding shower the ending will have transformed to include a victory cup. In reality the game ended the next inning, the other team scoring the deciding run. I can’t say they left the field in defeat, though, because they didn’t. They left the field as a team, surrounded in love and full of pride in how far they came.
My girl isn’t the only one with a history of illness, or bullying, or feeling like a square peg in a round hole. This is America’s Pastime, there were thousands of games yesterday across our country, thousands of kids playing their hearts out in the name of teamwork and winning and pride, many of them reclaiming their descriptors through heart-felt plays and determination. Twinkle will never be known as the kid who missed practices for trips to Children’s, instead she will be the girl who came alive at the championships when her team really needed her. In that moment, on our field, our girls transformed into ball players – ball players who knew in their gut they played their best game.