Thursday, June 14, 2012

Catching summer fever once more


By Dashiell Young-Saver
Cory and I threw a baseball two Saturdays ago. As we did, I remembered the time of tiny dancers, when we all swayed to a beautiful, pointless tune.
Summer is a dance. The end of school opens the warm floor of the Conejo Valley for kids to learn, play and live.
There’s no structure and restraint as they flow with the kind winds and sweet melodies to explore their random intrigue wherever it takes them.
It is a dance without steps, where they can do as they please without having to worry about a teacher scolding them for doing so. The dance only lasts three months every year, but its freedom gives hope that sustains kids through the nine months of structured boredom in between.
Unfortunately, I’m not a good dancer. When I try to move with a beat, it looks like I am being beaten with an invisible stick.

I make a big effort, but my arms and legs can only muster a good imitation of Gumby (not only because they are long and flap around a lot, but also because they make people so nauseous that I appear green).
But I enjoy my dancing, no matter how bad it is. The same goes for my summer dances. I tried many things over the summer and was bad at most of them. But as a kid growing up in Thousand Oaks, none of my unskilled and uncoordinated summer activities came even close to comparing with my favorite: baseball.
Every Saturday during summer, I woke up to a sunny morning and a spinning stomach as I calmed my nerves for the T.O. Little League game that afternoon.
Tensions ran high as my team battled for the coveted secondto last place spot every year. We almost never succeeded.
I played first base—mainly because my Gumby body was good at stretching for the ball—and loved it.
All I had to do was stand and wait for my teammates to do the work. Plus, when our team was lucky enough to hold a batter to one base, I could have an enlightening conversation about nothing with a member of the opposing team.
Here is an average talk between me and a second-grade base runner:
Me: “Hey man, how’s your day going?”
Base runner (surprised I was talking to him): “Uhh . . .”
Me: “Okay, I guess I have days like those too sometimes. Mine is going great, if you were wondering.”
Base runner: “Uhh . . . okay?”
Me: “You know, you are really fun to talk to. Anyways, do you see that right fielder?”
Base runner: (nods head cautiously).
Me: “Yeah, his name is Jake. He eats a lot of dandelions out there. I don’t know why.
Base runner: “Look, dude. I need to focus and . . .”
Me: “Maybe it’s because he picked his nose so much he picked his brains out too.”
Base runner: ( steals second to get away from me but is caught).
Me (shouting as he walks back to the dugout): “ It was a pleasure speaking with you!”
Nowadays, when I want to experience a similarly awkward and one-sided conversation, I talk with girls.
But it isn’t the same. I miss those summers, and I feel my time with them, like the time I had with that quiet second-grader, was cut short—this summer will be my last as a Thousand Oaks student.
Cory Smith was never on my team in Little League, but he always talked with me at first base. We were good friends.
Cory was always interested in music and was good at it, too. He is simply amazing and wants to do music for a career.
I want to write.
While those career paths may change, one path is certain: neither of us will become profes- sional baseball players.
Cory and I drifted slightly apart over the years for no reason. But we came back together two Saturdays ago to do something we once loved but would never do professionally: play catch.
We went to a park and started to throw. The arm motions felt familiar as the ball sailed back and forth across the light summer breeze.
Each smack of the ball against the gloves brought more flashbacks to another time. I noticed the smells and the warmth of summer again.
Work, college worries and school melted away as the heat seemed to travel under my shirt and lift me off the ground.
I felt the pre-game spinning of my stomach and the pure fun of doing something that had no point. I finally let myself go.
For the last time, it was the first day of summer. I danced in the Conejo Valley once again.
Dashiell Young-Saver recently graduated as a valedictorian from Westlake High School. He will attend Harvard University in the fall. His column, “A Dash of Youth,” will appear biweekly this summer in the Acorn.


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