Island Summer League
Flyers took over the bulletin boards at the library, the Island Store, and the post office. "Tuesday and Thursday Nights 7 p.m. KENNEDY FIELD ALL WELCOME." Summer was officially here. Island softball had begun.
The small island of Isle au Haut is home to twenty to thirty people year-round, with the population rising to around two hundred in the summers. The island's mailboat, the Miss Lizzy, transports day-trippers, tourists, and islanders who have gone off island to visit the doctor or the dentist, as well as the mail and freight for the Island Store. Campers and hikers come to explore the island, most of which is part of Acadia National Park. As the tourists invade, the town clears as the locals head home to the quiet of their cove or to Long Pond for a swim. By dusk, it's safe to come back out of hiding. The campers have biked to the park, set up their tents, and are in for the night while the day-trippers have all taken the late boat back to Stonington.
It was 6:45 on a Tuesday night, and we were all at home, eating dinner so quickly that we had stomachaches. We had been dressed since six and were waiting for mom or dad to drive us to the field. If you were late, they were going to pick teams without you.
Lee Runge and Jess Stevens were captains. Annie, my best friend on the island, and I held hands during the selection. Jess chose us, along with our friend Emily. It was a big crowd tonight, fourteen on their team and twelve on ours (the Evans twins counted as one since they were only four years old). The parents sat in the tall grass under the crab apple tree. They talked and watched little Finnegan waddle out his first few steps and fall on the cushion of his diaper. In the outfield Annie and I made necklaces and crowns from dandelions as we stood in our pigtails in the tall, itchy grass.
We were so far away from home plate that we only had to pay attention when Dane or Lee was up to bat. They were teenagers - we had the biggest crushes on them - and they hit the farthest. Sally, Lee's sister, was a few years older than us, probably twelve or thirteen. When Dane hit one right to our spot in the outfield, Sally yelled our names, and we jumped up and started hunting for the ball. Dane ran to first base and picked up the first baseman, my little brother, Mike, and ran all the way home with him in his arms. Everyone laughed and cheered.
We never kept score.
Several summers passed in Kennedy Field with our generation of softball kids. For the summer kids, high school pre-seasons at home started to interfere with our trips to the island. Specialized camps, boyfriends and girlfriends - they all started to pull our teams apart.
When I found out that Lee, Dane, and Sally weren't going to be spending their summers on the island, I was offended, sobbing to my dad that they had left me. He tried to explain change to me; he told me it was like the tide, when the waves come in and bring new things to the beach, they take some of the good things with them and leave others behind.
My island friends kept in touch through e-mail and island post. When I knew that Annie, Emily, and I might miss each others' visits by a week or two, I wrote letters and gave them to Dotty, the postmistress. I heard through "island news" (town gossip) that Emily had gotten into Boston University and Annie would be attending Georgetown.
It wasn't until two summers ago that, by chance, the three of us were back on the island at the same time. I ran into Annie on my run down to Long Pond. She rode past me on her bike, stopped, and turned around. We heard that Emily was here for the summer working at the old lighthouse, which had been converted into a bed-and-breakfast. That evening, Emily was startled by the two college-aged girls in pigtails carrying baseball bats and gloves standing at her door. We told her to get her mitt. We arrived at Kennedy Field just as they were choosing teams. The tides had brought in a new generation of softball kids. Rather than play, we decided to be umpires.
Annie got my attention and pointed to the outfield. Under the steeple in the tall grass were three young girls covered in dandelion crowns and necklaces playing follow the leader. The sun was setting and the evening light hit the field and its players. The outfielders sat down to weave their dandelion crowns and disappeared in the tall grass, their laughter giving away their hiding spot under the church's steeple.