Dan Conradt: Baseball, warm rolls, take sting out of shoveling
It was the perfect snow for snowmen but not so much for shoveling. We’d just added 6 inches to “The Winter That Never Ends,” but I was tempted to just let it melt; I mean, it’s mid-April, for Pete’s sake! How much longer can it last … two, three months?
I turned on the radio, hoping the ballgame would hurry the winter along, but celebrating the boys of summer seemed unnatural when the world was buried under half-a-foot of fresh snow. Guilt got the best of me after two batters.
I shrugged into my parka and slipped into boots that hadn’t dried completely from the last snow.
Each shovelful of snow weighed about a hundred pounds, and my back quickly started to protest.
Three scoops and rest. Three scoops and rest.
I got to the end of my sidewalk and took an extended rest. Then I kept going.
Early in the winter I’d adopted the sidewalk in front of my elderly neighbor’s house just because it was the right thing to do. At least it seemed right with feather-light January snow.
I was into the “rest” portion of my cycle when she poked her head out the front door.
“Don’t hurt your back, Dan,” she said. “It’s going to melt in a day or two.”
“My back is fine,” I smiled as a cramp crawled up my spine.
“When you finish, come in for a cup of coffee. I just made cinnamon rolls …”
I’d had her cinnamon rolls before; I finished shoveling without the “rest.”
“Come in!” she called when I knocked on the kitchen door. I stomped my feet on the back step, left my boots on a braided rug just inside the door and hung my coat on a peg at the top of the basement steps.
“Sit! Sit!” she said, gesturing to one of the two chairs at a tiny kitchen table.
The house smelled like a good bakery, and the furnace was set at a temperature that would have been considered “preheat” if it was an oven. It felt fantastic. I sat.
She put two thick ceramic mugs on the table and filled them with coffee from an old-fashioned percolator, then cut pieces of cinnamon roll from a baking pan. The rolls were still warm enough that frosting was puddling on the dessert plates.
She sat in the chair across from me and took a careful sip of her coffee.
“I surely appreciate you shoveling my sidewalk,” she said. “I could do it, you know …”
“I know you could,” I said diplomatically. “But I need to do mine, and it’s really no extra work to do yours.”
She looked at me like she knew I was fibbing.
We enjoyed our cinnamon rolls in silence, and she cut me a second piece without being asked. I didn’t try to talk her out of it.
“Are you a baseball fan?” she asked after a few quiet minutes. The question took me by surprise.
“I’m a BIG fan!” I said.
“Would you like to listen to the game?”
I would have said “yes” even if she wasn’t adding a third cinnamon roll to my plate.
She grabbed a transistor radio from the kitchen counter, placed it in the middle of the table and clicked it on.
Kent Hrbek lined a base hit to right.
“Do you listen to many games?” I asked.
“I never miss one!” she said. “I have a notebook my by chair in the living room. I like to keep score. Let me show you.”
She shuffled off to the living room in a pair of well-used slippers and came back with a stack of dog-eared spiral notebooks. She placed one in front of me almost reverently, and I wiped my hands on my jeans to make sure they were frosting-free.
Next to the names I knew so well, the symbols — diamond shapes filled in with ballpoint pen, 6-4-3 DP, E2, 4-6-3FC, F8 and lots of exuberant K’s — painted a picture in my mind that was as vivid as if I was sitting in the bleachers.
“This is awesome!” I said. “How long have you been a baseball fan?”
“Since I was a little girl,” she said wistfully. “A long time ago …”
On the radio, Mickey Hatcher grounded out to short. Put it in the book as 6-3.
I finished the last bite of cinnamon roll, drained my coffee cup and stood up to go.
“Thanks for the treat,” I said. “It was just what I needed.”
“Thank you for shoveling my sidewalk.” Then: “The Twins play an afternoon game tomorrow …” She let the rest of her sentence hang, but I saw the little girl in her smile.
“I’ll stop and pick up some peanuts and Cracker Jack,” I said.
It was snowing gently when I stepped out the back door.
Baseball and snow go together better than I thought.