Every summer the Little League teams in the Chicago suburbs were invited to Comiskey Park for “Little League Night” (at least, that’s what I’m calling it now). We got to wear our baseball uniforms, eat hotdogs, watch the Sox play, and the highlight was being able to walk around the baseball diamond while the crowd cheered and the organ played, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (or maybe it was “Pump Up the Jam”).
The night I went I had previously spent several hours at the dentist’s office getting a root canal. I needed a root canal because I’d gotten half my front tooth knocked out during one of my baseball games.
I love the reactions I get when people find out my tooth was knocked out during a baseball game. They look at me like I might be an athlete, and if I knew enough about baseball, I’d make the next part up and create a character who won the game while sacrificing her front tooth.
What happened was this: I was sitting on the bench in the dugout, trying to draw a butterfly in the dirt with my shoe. I heard cheers and screams, and looked up to see my teammate running the bases. She got to home plate before the other team could get the ball, resulting in a homerun. We jumped and “hoorayed” as she ran into the dugout slapping her “five” and hitting her helmet.
Now that I think about it, I don’t know how her helmet came into contact with my tooth. I was one of the last people to congratulate her, so maybe she wasn’t paying attention. Or, more likely, I lost interest in congratulating her and turned my attention to my butterfly dirt sketch.
What I do remember was the crack I heard when her head hit my tooth. And then the sand-papery feel of what was left of my tooth. Suddenly that warm summer breeze was frigid when I breathed in, and I put my hand over my mouth quickly to protect it while tears streamed down my cheeks.
So after the root canal, I’m walking around the baseball diamond at Comiskey, and all I can think about is the root my dentist showed me when he took it out of my mouth.
“Do you want to keep it?” he asked my mom.
“NO!” With that one word my mom was able to express disgust as well as her suspicion that the dentist might be nuts.
As we drove home on the Eisenhower, we were behind a school bus filled with adults, that to my 4th grade mind, were not following the rules of good riding-the-school-bus-behavior. You NEVER stick your head out of the window, or stand up while the bus is moving. And you certainly don’t pull your pants down and press your butt up against the back window so the family in the brown caravan with the 9 and 11 year old kids can see it.
“What is he doing?” my brother said, a mixture of awe and fear in his voice.
My mom, never to miss an educational moment, said,
“Kids? That’s what you call a pressed ham.”