I grew up across the river, in the woods.
Sometimes I go back.
Back to the baseball field next to the 4H barn where I played rightfield for the Pintos. The other team was the Vegas.
Their pitcher wore an Izod shirt under his jersey and we beat them 20 straight times and then played them for the championship and won, and then the Vegas played their mamas and their mamas lost the game on purpose and the Vegas got bigger trophies than we did.
Back to the sleepy pond where weighted plastic worms were always the best bet but one day on a hunch I threw out a fancy top-water lure with two hooks and reeled in two largemouth bass.
Back to the country highway where my brother and I were late for school and I was driving the old family sedan that happened to have a 427 under the hood and we topped the hill and I swerved to avoid a mule and lost control and we jumped a ditch and landed in a cemetery.
I go back and it’s always the same. The field is smaller than I’d remembered. So is the pond and the highway and the cemetery and the ditch and the mule.
The fish probably weren’t so big either.
I can still tell the stories, stories built not as much on facts as on the adrenaline rush of winning your first trophy or feeling at least one fish hit your lure or sitting in an old car in a cemetery and being happy you’re still alive.
And those stories mean something when you’ve settled down like I have and you’ve got a bunch of kids and life feels like a never-ending cycle in which you do the same thing year after year but every year you feel at least one year older but sometimes more.
Now I live in Columbus with my wife and four children.
And even though I just said that I do the same things over and over again, those same things seem new when I see my children do them for the first time.
Learning to ride a bike without breaking any bones.
Playing the oboe and making it sound less like a hoarse duck each time.
Hitting a home run, even if it involves a ground ball and four errors.
Dancing, acting or telling knock-knock jokes to more than 100 people.
Eating a Ranger burger all by yourself.
Keeping important moments alive by making them into stories and telling them over and over again.
This summer, I’m teaching my daughter how to drive.
And we’re not going anywhere near that old country highway with the mule and the cemetery.