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Stolen bases & kisses (10/12/2003)
By Janet Lewis Burns
It was about as close to being there as I've been in ages. Home from the office, to the Lewiston place where I've lived for 27 years, it was a delicious, windows-unfurled September afternoon. Something in the air drew me back...Deja vu.

With the echo of a wobbly screen door's flimsy slam against a dusty breeze, that spicy whiff of Mother's freshly-baked molasses cookies wafted through the hall. I was moved to put the "Elvis Country" CD on the boom box I seldom play anymore. Its smooth, rich melody filtered through the deck door, where I had sunk into a lawn chair, bare feet against the warmed, weather-worn wood.

"Are you lonesome tonight?" Elvis' ambiance beautifully recaptured tones of the distant past, when I was on earth the first time. I was ten years old again, for this unexpected sensation, my household chores and supper blown off. I got "into" the vibes enshrouding my frumpy self, to bask in a freer, more sensual moment.

The community of my childhood home was lively with a wide range of neighborly exchanges. Two doors from the 12-grade school, our yard, with its generous cement steps and billowing shade tree, was an ideal place for teens to idle away their noon break. Cigarettes rolled up in guys' tee-shirt sleeves and stashed in girls' purses were not forbidden. Curling, musk-smelling tresses floated into the clouds, like an emotion inhaled and fleeting at the same moment.

"Have I told you lately..." It's the crickets of early autumn, and the way the melody blends with the words, that brings those sultry, starlit nights flooding back. As a child, those glowing squares of glass, from a cheery kitchen, were beacons across the back yard, through exhilarating darkness.

"Love me tender." Mother's silhouette bled through the moonlight, as she could be seen on the back cement steps snapping garden string beans, where ancient lilac bushes, a rhubarb patch gone to seed, and her wax begonias imparted the homespun fragrance of nurturing.

Lewiston's baseball field remains behind the present grade school. Sprawling, green wood plank bleachers, seven rows, filled up fast on game nights. Adult town teams were big entertainment. Lanky, swaying light poles emitted a powerful glare. That, along with an announcer's commentary and a crowd's enthusiastic cheering, reverberated throughout the community.

An entire neighborhood has since sprung up where the old scoreboard stood, behind which fields of corn rustled. "Won't you wear my ring around your neck." Pat and I, chums in high school, now reside here in one of those homes, but, at this interval, I seem to have lost my present self.

"A hunka hunka burnin' love." There were dugouts on either side of the baseball bleachers, with dirt floors, splintery benches, and a poignant scent of tobacco juice. It was there that adolescents were known to hide away, on no-game evenings, in the penetrating darkness of the towering poles, for that first kiss. (Some didn't make it to first base.)

"I just wanna be your loving teddy-bear." It was what every girl longed for, through heart-racing moments. She could "just die" if he doesn't ask...and die if he does. The cheerleaders were already spoken for, usually by the jocks on the team. To be asked to sit with a fella on the bus ride home from a game, even if he wasn't the guy of your dreams, that was the grooviest!

Sometimes, shadows revealed an arm inching around a shoulder, a stolen kiss, serenaded by boisterous chatter. It wasn't unusual to witness a jilted girl pouting, fuming or crying into his letter jacket. "Don't be cruel to a heart that's true."

"I did it my way." A bold transition to "let it all hang out," the 60s stoked the fire of romantic allure and rebellion, still nurtured by today's Baby Boomers. Most of us teeny-boppers of old still harbor that gumption, daring rhythm, and a carelessly free spirit.

"Now and then there's a fool such as I." Hang loose. 


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