Yesterday I took my son to baseball practice for the very first time. The deal is, he tries it for a month, and then, if he’s committed, he gets a Tigers uniform. I picked him up at school, and he changed from his school duds into his baseball practice uniform in my tiny Kei car. He doesn’t know how to tie his shoes, so I had to do that. I think we taught him once, but I guess he forgot. He’s always worn shoes that close with velcro. Anyway, it’s not his fault. We forget to teach him things.
“If the kids start saying ‘gaijin, gaijin,’ just ignore them,” I said.
I also wanted to say, “If the coach hits you, you have to tell me!” I know coaches are always hitting kids in Japan, but I don’t want anyone touching a hair on his head. I didn’t want to prejudice my son, though, so I didn’t say anything else.
I knew we’d be late because practice starts at 4:30PM, and he doesn’t finish classes until 4:10PM. The other kids on the team go to public school which finishes at least an hour earlier. Already, I was formulating apologies and excuses in my head. I was also thinking that I’d like to tell the coach that my son will sometimes be absent due to trips abroad, he’s got family in America, there are other things besides baseball, blah, blah, blah. But when we got to the ball field, I discovered that the coach is around sixty and he wasn’t super warm and friendly as I thought he’d be, since my husband knew this guy and had told him we were coming. Uh-oh, I thought. This guy is old school. So all I said was, “Uh, sorry we’re late. The boy was in school. He’ll probably be late again.”
A bunch of boys swarmed around my son and started asking him questions. They showed him where to put his stuff. No one called me a “gaijin.”
I drove home. My daughter and I ate our lonely supper and we waited for my son and husband to come home.
I thought about all the practicing he’d have to do. Three hours every day after school! Saturdays and Sundays! The boy will have no free time! Maybe he’ll hate it, I thought. But then he came home at almost 8PM, a big smile on his face. He was talking about his new friends. He told me that he hit a double, and then crossed home plate. He’d never played a real baseball game before, just pretend baseball with his dad and sister. My little Tiger! He was so happy, and so was I.