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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Parent learns lessons about sports, friends

Jeanne Marie Laskas The Washington Post

The letter is from “a concerned parent,” and it has just arrived via the pink backpack my daughter takes to kindergarten each day. It has been called to the league’s attention that certain parents have been chanting derogatory phrases about other teams in the league, it begins.

Oh, dear. This can’t be good. The league in question is the one that includes my daughter’s softball team, the Kittens. It’s a countywide league, with five girls from my daughter’s kindergarten participating; the moms are among the women I think of as my new friends.

The Kittens have had only a few practices so far, and it’s been a thrill to see so many of the girls I’ve known since preschool learn how to catch and how to whack a ball off the tee. They’re supposed to graduate to a pitch by the time they have their first scrimmage against the Daisies next month.

“The Daisies?” I said, when I heard about the matchup. “Oh, they’re a bunch of pansies!” I was sitting in the bleachers. “The Kittens are gonna mow down the Daisies!” I cheered. “Yeah, come on, girls, we’re gonna pluck those Daisies!”

Oh, dear.

The letter continues: This behavior will not be tolerated. Further instigating behavior will result in immediate expulsion of that certain parent with the really cute, short haircut who went to London recently.

Holy fly ball, this letter is directed entirely at me. (I do appreciate the positive hair review.) I was in London recently and, um, I guess my Daisy trash talk could be considered “derogatory phrases.” Oh my God, they’re trying to be funny about it, but they’re telling me to shut up!

We will not make it our practice to name names but if you are married to a very nice gentleman named Alex and you have two beautiful girls this may be about you.

Well, then. And did I mention that I consider these moms my new friends? They couldn’t just tell me I was out of line? And … I was kidding. I’m completely on board with the league’s stance toward competition. The emphasis is on playing softball. We don’t keep score, and every girl gets to bat until she actually hits the ball. It’s an anti-competition competition, or at least now it feels like one.

I am officially mortified — on so very many levels. It’s taken me three years to feel comfortable around my new friends, and now that I’ve finally broken through and allowed myself to just be me, well, me is a klutz, a dope, a loudmouth boor who needs to be … corrected.

Corrected? Where do they come off? And, what’s the matter with a little fun in the bleachers? If you’re going to have a league with Kittens and Daisies, you are inevitably going to have a cheering section coming up with images of mowing, plucking, scratching, clawing and litter boxes. Is this not what sports are for?

There are better lessons for beginners, I suppose.

I know this. I’m a sensitive person. I knew I was going overboard on that recent field trip when I got into a little Kitten/Daisy rant and began cheering about weed-whacking, composting and scratching the eyes out of the Daisies, which, of course, didn’t even make sense. I apologized to Zoe’s mom, one of my new friends, as she boarded one of the buses. Her husband is the Kittens’ coach, and she’s the assistant. So she and I and some of the other mothers agreed we’d better rein ourselves in. Still, I wondered if she was upset with me, and I asked a couple of the others. They laughed, assured me there was no way. I got on a different bus, and so I never did get closure around the issue — not, apparently, until now.

So let this be a friendly warning … the letter ends.

I am officially humiliated, a sunken ship of self-pity. Here I thought my new friends liked me, but it turns out they think I’m an idiot. I take the letter to Alex, ask him to help me feel better. He has only one response: “They think I’m a very nice gentleman!”

Oh, for heaven’s sake. The phone rings. It’s Zoe’s mom. Ack! She is laughing, wants to know how I liked the letter. Ack! I start mumbling my apology. She doesn’t know what I’m talking about. “Oh, we had so much fun writing that!” she says.

Turns out, the whole thing is a joke. The mothers on the bus told her I was worried, and she decided to run with it.

She says she thought for sure I would know it was a joke.

A joke!

I’m tempted to cover up and say of course I knew, to not admit how gullible I am.

She falls over in apology. I fall over in apology. We are embracing with our words. And I suppose this is exactly how it works, communication between new friends. You have no idea where the lines are, and so you push, and pull, and tug, and hope.

“You’ll be hearing from my lawyer in the morning,” I say. “I’ll be suing for pain and suffering.”

We share a good long laugh, as friends do.

(Go, Kittens!)

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