While unpacking the remaining boxes (looking for my recipe box to make my favorite pecan pie recipe) I opened the box marked "mom's nostalgia". Of all the memorabilia in this box, the photographs, original gift boxes ribboned up, each bringing up an event and a wonderful gift -- oh, here's the cover quilt for the Lone Star pattern!!! I've been looking for that! -- my dad's shoeshine kit, one circular knit green potholder loop, and the broken plaster handprint painted in bright primary colors, it is the dirty tennis ball that brings the tears to surface. No, I wasn't on the tennis team, don't own a racket, and I never wore a tennis skirt.
This ball was found near the mailbox one day. The mailbox was an eighth of a mile from the house down an unpaved driveway bordered with trees and a pond and a fabulous rail fence. The mailbox was in a cul de sac which served as a bus stop. I walked the kids to the bus stop every morning when they were little. It turned out to be a pretty nice time for us, void of distraction, phones, laundry, work...just a pleasant walk down a tree-lined lane. One day early in our first few months there we found this tennis ball. We casually started throwing it to each other. We weren't very good...kept missing it a lot..but we all got a lot of running, laughter an joy out of this exercise. The ball managed to make it back to the house and back again the next day to the bus stop. We got used to our little family ritual and began to go early to the bus stop just so we might have more time to play. In the winter, the throwing and catching kept us warmer; in the warmer weather (not much of it in Minnesota!) it just kept us moving. At some point, we decided to keep the ball in the mailbox, as the mailbox had a lean to it and the ball would roll to the back. We lived in that house for 12 years. The ball stayed in the mailbox the whole time.
An era gone by - will there even be mailboxes in the near future? Sometimes memories are photographs and plaster prints. This one is the little hands throwing and catching the ball, missing it, charging for it, and fighting over it with each other and laughing...lots of laughing. And we got pretty good over the years, widening our playing field from the inner cul de sac to the edges of the cul de sac and then some. It didn't cost a penny in equipment. Just a found tennis ball kept in a mailbox. Sometimes the best memories don't involve going very far - just a simple game of catch can capture memories and catch a bunch of love to keep forever.