What a deal that was. Graduating a kid from college is not nothing. It’s not, especially when it’s your first buckaroo. And when First Buckaroo is the first of a combined total of 29 of ‘em to show up, it’s a big deal.
We have a history here of firsts. First’s father, Mr. Schrock, and I are both the first in our respective families, and on one half of my family tree, I was the first grandkid to hit the exit chute. As you can see, we’ve carefully blazed the trail of “firstness” for him.
But back to the commencement, which was about the time that life busted loose, and a couple other notable firsts took place. As the senior prepared for Cap and Gown Day at Bethel College, someone else was preparing for a special day of his own. The “who” was Little Schrock, First’s baby brother and the last in line to wander in. The “where” was the middle school, and the “what” was Hat and Picture Day.
It was the start of Little League season. Hordes of small, eager baseball players had descended with moms or dads, whichever had drawn the short stick, with ruffled-up Saturday hair. With the diplomacy of Secretary of State Kerry, coaches assembled their players, doled out team shirts, plopped team hats on sleepy heads and arranged them in ragged rows for team pictures.
How many times had the Schrocks attended Hat and Picture Day with one or two Little Leaguers in tow? It certainly wasn’t the first time we’d been there. But it was the first time for Little Last, otherwise known as “the period on the end of that long and lively sentence.”
Then came the first game. Like a pair of old shoes that fit all familiar, yet worn a lifetime ago; that’s how it felt as I stared at the field through the same chain-link fencing, perched on the same metal bleachers.
The last time we’d been there, George Bush was president, the summer Olympics were set to begin and the politicians were squabbling like toddlers. Wait. They’re still squabbling like toddlers, which just goes to show that some things don’t change. Including small baseball players who watch for birds instead of balls, trace their names in the dirt and wear outsized caps that make their ears stick out.
Anyway, there we were, the rest of us, at Last’s first game. It was a far cry, the Pee Wee diamond, from the stadium where I’d cheered for the Kansas City Royals as a girl. There, they had a Jumbotron that flashed stars and lightning when someone hit a home run. Here, we had fingers and toes and a notepad to keep track.
There, they had George Brett. Here, we had—hey, wait. Apparently, we had him, too, judging by the way Last was batting. Exactly how he was getting on base every time and driving in runs with that batting stance was unclear. But he was and they scored, and we shouted like banshees. Winning the first game of the season, in our experience, was about as common as a week without a Vice Presidential gaffe. Which is to say, not very, and may have been a first right there.
Meanwhile, as if we needed more headlines, Little Last larked past and threw in one more first—a tooth. Yup. In the middle of hats and pictures and gowns and caps, it fell right out of his mouth. As he put it (‘cause certain blends are still hard to say), “I lost my toof.”
Sure as shootin’ he lost that thing, and the panic that ensued when it dropped into the carpet was something to see. The Justice Department never looked for the missing Whitewater records as hard as he looked for his tooth.
When he found it, what joy! What delight! Angels sang, and a child beamed. Minus, of course, a tooth. Then Daddy took him and his incisor to bed, tucking them in, him beneath his Blanket Beloved and the tooth beneath his pillow. After prayers, kisses and an exhaustive interrogation about the “toof” fairy that covered her route, her rates and her ability to find it, he wriggled some more, then finally fell asleep.
If I wasn’t so blasted sentimental, life, with all its firsts and lasts, would be easier for me. But I am, so it’s not and there it is.
We feelers, I think, suffer a little extra. Those lasts? We feel ‘em. Speaking personally, they remind me of how quickly time’s passing and how fast the children are growing up. We only get to do this once. Life comes, then goes in the blink of an eye. But the joys? We feel those, too. The pain of lasts is offset by the joy of firsts.
Joy and sorrow. Happiness and pain, major chords and minor in your symphony and mine. We only sing this song once. We’ll not pass through here again. Let’s sing it—and live it—well.