Story by Stephanie Brown
At 12 years old, I was at a very awkward stage in life. No longer a little girl, but not quite a teenager. To make matters worse, I was chubby and coordination was not one of my strongest features. On the other hand, my mother was a very talented softball player who even acted as my coach. Night after night, I would try my best to impress “my coach.” Unfortunately, ball game after ball game, I would strike out! A good night would be hitting a fly ball to the pitcher. At times I just felt like a terrible disappointment to my mother. Not only did I lack her athletic ability, but also I definitely did not possess her love of the game.
One summer afternoon, my mother told us (my 2 brothers and me) that we were going to go visit my Uncle David and Aunt Elsie. Since we lived in apartments, going to the country was quite a treat. Not only did I look forward to running through the corn field mazes, taking a dip in their small pond, but also seeing my Uncle David whom I adored. My Uncle David always had a way of making me feel special. This particular Saturday would be no exception.
When we arrived, my uncle and cousin Jeff were throwing metal rings at 2 holes in the ground. Curiosity got the best of me so I went over to watch. Dust flew in the air as my Uncle David’s metal ring sank into the hole. “You win again!”, my cousin Jeff replied as he marched angrily past me.
Noticing that I was standing there, my uncle asked if I had ever played washers. Being A “city girl,” my reply was that the only “washers” I knew were the ones that cleaned clothes. Chuckling, Uncle David explained that the metal rings were called washers. Picking up the 4 washers off the ground, he continued to explain this favorite game of his. He then gave me the washers and gave tips on how to pitch better.
Later as others gathered around the holes to play a game, I thought that I had better “move out” of the way to “make room” for the good washer players. As they began to pair off, I was shocked to hear my uncle saying he wanted to keep me as a partner. As I began to protest that I could not possibly play against anyone, my uncle insisted that the only way to improve your washer playing was to actually play a game.
Although I had quite a few washers to roll toward the cornfields, I found myself not only enjoying but also wanting to win this game. We were beating everybody! Our winning was due to my uncle being one of the greatest washer players of all times–at least in the small town of Clay, KY and definitely in the eyes of his twelve year old niece. Eventually the championship game was to be against my mother and older brother Kevin.
Being extremely nervous, I somehow managed to pitch washer after washer until it was my last turn. As the washer went into the air and began to fall, I was amazed to see a cloud of dust appear as the washer sank into the hole. My first ringer! I had actually thrown the washer into the hole! Screaming and jumping up and down, I felt two strong arms lift me even higher as my Uncle David hugged me and told me “Way to go!”
Getting that ringer placed me on cloud nine for quite some time. In the months to come, this small success (especially sweet because I had beat my mother and brother), in washer playing helped me to gain back some self-confidence lost when I struggled with the game of softball.
Although twenty-three summers have gone by since that day, I do not believe any of my other successes in life tasted this sweet! My mother has always told me that you never forget a person who is kind to you as a child. I will always remember how my Uncle David raised my spirits as well as increasing my self-esteem that one summer afternoon in his backyard. He truly made me feel like an “all-star,” as he shared his game of washers with me. He will always score a home run with me!