Mr. Baseball has gymnastics “practice” every Thursday night in the old auditorium of the now defunct Nelsonville High School. The building—something between a Nightmare on Elm Street set and a historical restoration project waiting to happen—sits behind the Nelsonville McDonald's on a quiet street otherwise lined with world-war-II era bungalows and one unsightly triplex with a pitted, uneven parking lot at the end of the block. Besides the auditorium, which has been partially cleared of its seating to make room for un-even and parallel bars, and the stage, which provides space for two balance beams and a large tumbling mat, the entire school (the size of the whole block) is empty, derelict, and scary.
This is where we come every Thursday night. Mr. Baseball and his classmates rotate from station to station, bouncing on the trampoline, walking the balance beam, hanging from the bars, rolling somersaults, and flinging themselves down the springboard runway. There are twenty-one students in the auditorium tonight, almost all girls except Mr. Baseball and his two classmates, and in small groups they are all engrossed in balancing, twisting, bending, and jumping. The coaches (teenage members of the actual team?) shout instructions that echo off the old plaster, and a half-dozen parents and a few siblings wait in what’s left of the auditorium seating.
One of these siblings looks about seven or eight years old and he’s been playing on the sloped aisle of the auditorium’s seating area with two other small children. One of the smaller children, a young girl, ran up to him and was trying to get him to run down the ramp with him and he said, “I promised my mom I wouldn’t be crazy.” He said it with such a matter-of-fact tone that I knew “being crazy” was a common topic of conversation at their home, and that he had learned the effect of his craziness on his parents and other people.
It is good, I have decided, to hear other children say things like this, because it reassures me that Mr. Baseball is not unique in his flamboyance. His energy level registers somewhere between Tasmanian Devils and NBA mascots at a playoff game and though the QB and I have gotten much better and grinning and bearing it, Mr. Baseball’s vivacity can be challenging. To his credit, he is everyday becoming more self-aware of how his noise level and body movements can effect those around him and I can’t help but think this is all karma because I find myself echoing myself echoing my parents who for the first 13 or 14 years of life had to constantly remind me to use my “inside voice.” So if my history is any indication, Mr. Baseball should grow out of all this in just a hair under nine years…just in time for puberty to hit full tilt. And so it goes.