This is a story for my ongoing series of life as a “Camp Follower” ie, growing up as a base brat first then military wife later. As usual, these are true stories, save for some name changes and embellishments for poor memory!
Sunday morning Leicester Square, CFB Winnipeg May 1985
My husband and I usually slept late, if not through to the afternoon, on Sundays in those days. Young, no kids yet, no mortgage, living in military housing right on base. My husband a Corporal working on his degree part-time, I with my first grown-up job after college at the biggest private employer in town, becoming the IT professional I would retire as over 30 years later. Pretty good startup life, it’s easy to see now!
A beautiful sunny spring morning in Winnipeg – how many lovely mornings like that had we missed due to hang-overs from excellent drinking, partying, Saturday nights? But not this Sunday – the black clunky phone was blaring downstairs. No voice messaging in those days. It wasn’t giving up so I stumble out of bed to to answer it. It was remarkably bright downstairs in the tiny combination living dining room – what time is it anyway?
“Hey, Nicky, about time, it’s almost 9. Get Bryan for me!”
“Who is this?” No call display of course.
“Nicky, for fuck’s sake, wake up Bryan. It’s Ron. I need Bryan to meet me at the ball diamond on Ness at the end of the runway. Tell him to bring all his gear. As many gloves as he’s got. I’m bringing some guys. Be there, like, now! I’m leaving right away.” And then he hung up.
Bryan groaned out of bed when I told him what Ron was up to. But Bryan was a great ball player and we were young, so he grabbed his shorts and followed me back downstairs and then down to the unfinished basement to get the ball gear bag.
“I didn’t know Ron played ball – does he have a glove?” he bellowed up while putting the extra bats in the bag.
Good question. My cousin Ronnie was a year older than me and growing up I had considered him a very cool guy, very knowledgeable about music and smoking and other exotic life experiences that I was not at all familiar with. But sports? I didn’t really know. I myself grew up on military bases with all types of sports the main focus of life. I met my husband in army brat high school when he was a hockey star and ball player, before he joined up himself. Newly posted to Winnipeg now where Ronnie lived, we rarely saw my cousin except at family events back in small prairie towns nearby– our lives didn’t usually intersect socially at all.
“I don’t know, he said bring everything”, and off we went.
Ronnie and a bunch of guys on motorcycles and in muscled-up cars were already at the ball diamond when we showed up. There’s a Tim Horton’s there now, but I still remember it as I saw it that morning in 1985 – clear sky that brilliant wide blue, quiet on a Sunday morning at the end of the runway, surrounding fields that hadn’t greened up from the soft golden brown left after the winter melt. The diamond was in great shape, no bags or lines chalked yet, but level and softly gravelled, the huge metal chicken-wire backstop guarding Ness Road. Ronnie was running around ordering guys to stand here, there, get off your bike, don’t park there, put down your smoke – then he saw us pull up beside the field, and sprinted over.
“Hey man, good to see you – hey, Nicky. Ok, I’ve dragged these assholes out for a baseball game, because, can you believe it, they say they’ve never played! I told them we’d teach them and I knew you lived near here, so help me before I kill some of them!”
Ronnie is dressed in T-shirt and runners, but his buddies look like something from a ‘50’s gang movie – tight jeans, black leather boots and motorcycle vests, chains hanging around belts. Lots of cigarettes going and bleary eyes blinking around like they were on a foreign planet.
I can’t recall much of a game happening – the morning passed with Ronnie and Bryan playing everywhere, directing like traffic cops, showing guys how to hold the bat, where to stand, even which direction to run and that they should hurry! One guy did a perfect slide into second, not because he knew how, but because he slipped on his boot soles. Safe!
The morning fizzled out, some heavily-eyelinered girlfriends showing up to take their guys home for breakfast, or to go back to bed. Bryan and I collected gear, and said goodbye to Ronnie.
It was a beautiful day, but we went home to sleep away the afternoon.