It’s funny, you know, the things that claim a permanent spot in your memory. Not the sort that surfaces once in a while but the kind of memory with the awesome ability to transport you right back to that special time and place, complete with smells, sounds, and senses.
For me, it’s baseball. Specifically, the Reds on radio, but only at night. Strange, perhaps, but you have to understand, I grew up with a mother who loved the Reds and a brother who played baseball – Little League, American Legion, high school, college.
To me, contentment is nothing more than a hot, humid summer evening, heat lightning competing lazily with fireflies to light the evening, porch enveloped in rich, welcoming darkness, punctuated by the warmth of escaping window light – and always, the Reds on radio.
Contentment is plopping down, sweaty and dog-tired, on the swing, listening to its rhythmic creaking, listening to the mesmerizing snap, snap, snap of half-runners destined for the depths of a pressure cooker, listening to the laughter and lamenting of children being corralled for the night – and always, the hum of the crowd at Crosley Field.
Contentment is hearing – without really hearing – the soothing, peaceful murmur of adult conversation, the buzz of a frantic mosquito, the slam of a screen door somewhere in the darkness, the far-away bark of a hound, an answering shush — and always, the Reds on radio.
Contentment is hearing the steady drone of the crowd, punctuated occasionally with a whistle, a roar, the crack of bat smacking ball, a shout, scattered applause, the thump of ball nestling into mitt, the steady, familiar presence of Waite Hoyt, of Joe Nuxhall.
If only we could capture that feeling, bottle it, and market it like some old, familiar and beloved perfume. Contentment at your fingertips, at the spritz of a button. Bring back that peaceful feeling of childhood. Let go of care, forget worry. Mmmm.
You know, there’s a certain sense of security in tradition, in the past, in knowing that some things won’t change, in believing that tonight someone else carries the world on his shoulders, that the night holds everything unsafe at bay.
How I miss that. Nowadays we retreat in air-conditioned comfort, sit inside on the couch instead of outside on the creaky porch swing, use the light of our lamps and the locks on our doors to shut out the darkness and keep everything unsettling away. It works, sort of, but it’s not the same.
When summer rolls round and the fireflies return, when it’s lazy and humid and peaceful, when it’s canning time and the half-runners are plentiful, when adults sit back and kids play hard, when properly seasoned swings creak in a perfect rhythm — and when the Reds return to radio — what can possibly be wrong with the world?