Summer holds a special place in almost everyone’s heart, from unforgettable family vacations and momentous senior trips to blockbuster movie premieres, backyard cookouts and relaxing days on the water, perhaps kayaking down an out-of-the-way stretch of river, a late- afternoon sun beginning its descent behind the trees at the close of another 90-degree day.
Most of my childhood memories are set on Cherry Valley Drive, the grounds on which I stomped with my best friends—Ben DeLoach, Ryan King, Matt and Mark Edge, Jake Gilbert, Sam Cox and many others—and a few ancillary characters with four legs, most notably Booger the Chow and Duke the Black Labrador. Our lives revolved around the seasons, and during the summer, much of our existence was wrapped up in baseball. Most of our games unfolded in the cul-de-sac directly in front of Ben’s house. Jake developed this brilliant technique by which he would cut the ends off of those long, yellow wiffle ball bats you can still find at Wal-Mart, load them up with small empty medicine bottles he had filled with water and seal them shut with duct tape. We used tennis balls instead of real baseballs, for obvious reasons. Sometimes, an errant line drive would find its way into Mr. Bohannon’s azalea bushes that were situated down the third-base line. He was none too pleased when he spotted us digging one of our tennis balls out of those bushes.
I saw a meme not too long ago that brought me back to those summers: “At some point in your childhood, you and your friends went outside to play together for the last time, and none of you knew it.” Few truths have ever hit me harder. I just turned 44 and have fallen out of touch with most of my childhood friends. Way back when, I promised those guys to write a book about our adventures one day. If time ever slows down, maybe I’ll make good on my word and bring the Cherry Valley Gods back to life again.
by Brian Knapp