The aluminum stands chilled by a frosty Spring night cut through my long skirt and coat with ease sending shivers up to my floral headband. My 5th grader with 3% body fat shifted weight back and forth, waiting for his turn in the dreaded little league draft. Two long-time female friends to my right were huddled together when the one in scrubs loudly proclaimed a crude comment about hand warmers. The two laughed uproariously. She glanced my way and I nodded politely but with kids within earshot, I was a little taken aback. The ballplayers were released and I warmed the car and readied the Gatorade for Jack. Try-outs were over but the real work had only just begun.
With back room politics which would make Huey Long blush, the 2010 draft was complete and Jack landed on The Dodgers. To his delight he discovered that many former teammates would also wear Dodger Blue. Being the Tiger Mom that I am I was most excited about the hours of guilt-free social time with moms I never got to see. I know there are awesome mothers who know how to bubble in the little score thingy and run the scoreboard. I always considered my lack of volunteering for the book or board my highest contribution. At the end of the first practice I heard a loud laugh from behind me and realized that someone else was a Dodger Mom, too: The Hand Warmer.
The season progressed and within that little league environment of camaraderie and overexposure, peanuts and sweet tea, friendship grew. Hand Warmer proved to have comedic observation skills, unique phraseology and a keen wit. I had to love that. I enjoyed her stories about growing up with deaf parents and began to appreciate so much more about her than I could have ever known at first blush. Coach Trey drove the boys hard and brought out a championship title from them. He repeated this the next year and almost a third. Acutely superstitious, Coach wore the same shorts every game. In support, we vowed to wear the same clothes as well. I was all in before I realized that my commitment meant wearing my peasant dress every night for five nights. In a row. I was deemed the village wench before it was all over.
Our third season together, Hand Warmer and I reminisced about our false first impressions of each other. I said, “Do you remember watching the draft that frozen night and what you said about HAND WARMERS? I quoted her phrase back to her and told her I thought she was a thoroughly brash woman. This time we both howled with laughter at her comment. She laughed and said, “How hilarious, I thought you dressed like a gypsy! In fact before I knew your name I called you the gypsy. You always had some crazy colorful skirt and matching earrings on!”
I thought about Hand Warmer today in the fondest way. Thankful for the seasonal friendship we shared and the respect I still carry for her. While the golden days of little league have passed and our boy’s interests and schools have taken them different ways, I still reflect with love and admiration for the women behind the raucous laugh: a sensitive, kind and beautiful soul. An unlikely woman whose spirit surprisingly warmed me.
What are some of your first impressions of other people which turned out to be all wrong?