Thursday, April 25, 2013

Of Crickets and Stars

Chloe, some girl, and my little brother Joseph -- not watching the game.

Last night, I fell asleep to the sound of a single cricket noising outside my window.

It was heaven.

I tried to explain to Mr. T how welcoming and comfortable the sound of a cricket chirping noisily was to me, and I'm not sure he understood entirely. But for a girl grown up in Southern Missouri and Nebraska, crickets are like white noise. As summer approaches, even more so do I feel like a cricket outside my window is a huge blessing.

When I was a kid in Joplin, Missouri, my father played softball on the company league and my older brother played baseball. My memory likes to tell me that we were out on the softball or baseball diamond almost every night every summer when I was a kid, but I'm guessing that it was more like every weekend or once a week. The baseball diamond on the outskirts of town, the tall lights illuminating the field and dust plumes flying upward when a ball smacked the infield or someone slid into base. The games always started when it was still light outside and by game's end it was pitch black and the crickets were a symphony of summer.

I'd like to say I spent a lot of time watching my brother and dad play, but the truth is that me and my band of merry picker-uppers would wander the grounds nabbing trash for the reward of something free from the concession stand -- I'd always grab a Chic-o-Stick or giant dill pickle while friends grabbed ring pops, soda, or a hot dog.

When my little brother was born, I spent time watching him and then enlisted his help when he was old enough to walk and pick things up in garbage grabbing.

Late in the evening, we were always among the last to leave, watching the fields being closed up and the dust settle from people racing out of the gravel parking lot toward home.

One year it was particularly hot, and I neglected to drink enough water to keep me fully hydrated. So near the end of the night when the sun was already gone I chugged a ton of water. So much water, in fact, that I ended up throwing up all over the dry gravel and dirt near our car in the parking lot -- water poisoning! I've never been a regurgitator, but boy did I really do myself in that time.

So crickets. Usually, we talk about how powerful smell is. How it can transport us to a different time and place and make our shoulders relax, our eyes close, and a deep sigh to emanate from someplace deep within. I have those moments, but they are few and far between (the smell of stale soda cans is one, because as a kid we used to spend a lot of time at the aluminum can recycling facility in Joplin). Sounds are even fewer for me, but crickets is one that transports me to a time when I know we were all happy.

(Another sound? Wind chimes, but that's another story from a less happy time.)

It's funny that my little brother never took up baseball and that my older brother basically quit when we moved to Nebraska. The culture was different -- football, not baseball, reigned supreme. I no longer spent spring and summer on the baseball field but rather spent my fall and bitter winters on stone slabs in a large high school football stadium, which transitioned to college where I was a proud season-ticket holder for three years (something happened senior year -- I couldn't afford season tickets, even at the deeply discounted student price).

And I can guarantee you one thing: You don't hear crickets late at night amid the crunch of helmets and shoulder pads at a football game.

After I attempted to explain this cricket fixation to Mr. T, he said, as if out of nowhere,
"I wish there were no street lights in Neve Daniel." 
I responded, "Why exactly?" His response reminded me why I so love him.
"I'd like to be able to see all the stars."