It sits safely tucked away on the back shelf in my garage. During my once-a-year purging, I come across its cold, musty leather with worn straps barely holding it together. The feel of it in my hand is cool and tight around my fingers and it smells of leather oil. I love that particular scent because it brings back fond memories of my childhood.When you’re an 8-year-old tomboy, the best gift you can receive is your brother’s baseball glove that helped the Indians win the Little League Championship.
It meant a lot to me when Bill gave me that glove, not only because I was a baseball freak, but because I knew how much it meant to him. To this day, it rests prominently next to the 50-year-old Yahtzee game I played with my Nana whenever I slept over.
When I think back to my early childhood, I don’t remember enjoying things that a little girl would. I had one doll, Barbie, but only because my parents wanted me to have her.
When the girls on my block were playing jump rope, I was playing King of the Hill with the boys. While the girls wore dresses, I refused to leave the house without anything but jeans and a sweatshirt. I once spent a Saturday afternoon in my room because I refused to wear hair clips. For some reason my behavior worried my parents.
At school I often played with girls but at home I preferred the boys on my block. Naturally, this is where my parents observed most of my play. Did they think I would get hurt with rough play? Were they afraid I was gay? Were they concerned what the neighbors might think because I didn’t act like most girls? I hope and believe the answer is my first guess, but I’ll never really know.When Mom and Dad came home from work, I was usually at the bottom of a pile of boys as we wrestled. I’d see my parents cringe as they exited the car. Up until that time they hadn’t mentioned their concerns to me, but one day I was simply told not to play with boys anymore.
I gave it a try. I really did. I played things like hopscotch and Jacks but my heart wasn’t in it. Instead, I wished I was racing Albert on my skateboard.So I began to sneak around, playing with my boy friends until moments before my parents were to get home. Then I’d quickly dash over to Debbie or Kim to be seen with them as my parents drove up. Sometimes I dashed too late, but they never said anything after that one time, and I eventually went back playing with my buddies.
When I turned 12, my interests in boys developed into more than just baseball teammates. Ironically, as I grew out of my tomboy-hood, my parents began introducing me as “Our little tomboy.” Such is life. But I appreciated their ultimate acceptance.
What I thought I’d outgrown back then, never actually departed. I continue to enjoy all types of sports. But the difference today is that athletic girls are no longer seen as an anomaly. Apparently I was born in the wrong era. Female athleticism is now appreciated, unlike in 1963. Still, some things never change; I prefer pants to dresses and physical activity to something sedentary, like sewing.
It never fails that when I clean out the garage, I reach for that glove and am always flooded with memories. If I ever forget, I have reminders; the thumb I broke in a softball game aches when it turns cold. And my knee sports a wide scar from falling on glass when wrestling with Robert.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not sorry for my childhood or the way I lived it. For me it was perfect, even though I was considered different. Being a tomboy was a fun and defining part of my young life. Even today, when I pick up that mitt, I’m eight again, playing shortstop with the boys. And I don’t care what the neighbors think.